PD-L1 aptamer isolation via Modular-SELEX and its applications in cancer cell detection and tumor tissue section imaging†
PD-1/PD-L1 is an important pathway in immunotherapy and a high PD-L1 expression level in tumor tissues is an essential prerequisite for PD-1/PD-L1 blocking-based therapy. The PD-L1 expression level in tumor tissue sections is currently detected via immunohistochemistry (IHC) using anti-PD-L1 antibodies from various resources, which has the disadvantage of inconsistent results. As synthetic affinity ligands, aptamers have good batch-to-batch consistency and have been demonstrated to have great potential for use in biomedical applications. In this study, we isolated PD-L1 aptamers using a combination method, named Modular-SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment), which includes three sequentially performed modules: the affinity module, the specificity module, and the compatibility module. Three rounds of magnetic crosslinking precipitation (MCP)-SELEX, three rounds of Capture-SELEX, and two rounds of Tissue-SELEX were respectively performed in the corresponding three modules to significantly and efficiently improve the native affinity, specificity, and compatibility of the enriched library. The isolated aptamer Clon-3 had nanomolar binding affinity, as determined via both homogeneous and PD-L1 immobilized affinity assays. Clon-3 could be used to recognize various cancer cells with distinct PD-L1 expression levels using flow cytometry. The PD-L1 expression levels in normal human tonsils (the gold standard for anti-PD-L1 antibody) and non-small cell lung cancer tissue sections stained using Cy5.5-labeled Clon-3 were also successfully imaged using a confocal microscope. The fluorescence intensities of the tissue sections were in good agreement with their actual PD-L1 expression levels as confirmed via IHC.