Direct Selection of Fluorescence-Enhancing RNA Aptamers

RNA aptamers that generate a strong fluorescence signal upon binding a nonfluorescent small-molecule dye offer a powerful means for the selective imaging of individual RNA species. Unfortunately, conventional in vitro discovery methods are not efficient at generating such fluorescence-enhancing aptamers, because they primarily exert selective pressure based on target affinitya characteristic that correlates poorly with fluorescence enhancement. Thus, only a handful of fluorescence-enhancing aptamers have been reported to date. In this work, we describe a method for converting DNA libraries into “gene-linked RNA aptamer particles” (GRAPs) that each display ∼10<sup>5</sup> copies of a single RNA sequence alongside the DNA that encodes it. We then screen large libraries of GRAPs in a high-throughput manner using the FACS instrument based directly on their fluorescence-enhancing properties. Using this strategy, we demonstrate the capability to generate fluorescence-enhancing aptamers that produce a variety of different emission wavelengths upon binding the dye of interest.