Targeting Axl with an high-affinity inhibitory aptamer

Mol Ther. 2012 Dec;20(12):2291-303. doi: 10.1038/mt.2012.163. Epub 2012 Aug 21.


Axl is a tyrosine kinase receptor that was first identified as a transforming gene in human myeloid leukemia. Recent converging evidence suggests its implication in cancer progression and invasion for several solid tumors, including lung, breast, brain, thyroid, and pancreas. In the last decade, Axl has thus become an attractive target for therapeutic development of more aggressive cancers. An emerging class of therapeutic inhibitors is now represented by short nucleic acid aptamers. These molecules act as high affinity ligands with several advantages over conventional antibodies for their use in vivo, including their small size and negligible immunogenicity. Furthermore, these molecules can easily form conjugates able to drive the specific delivery of interfering RNAs, nanoparticles, or chemotherapeutics. We have thus generated and characterized a selective RNA-based aptamer, GL21.T that binds the extracellular domain of Axl at high affinity (12 nmol/l) and inhibits its catalytic activity. GL21.T blocked Axl-dependent transducing events in vitro, including Erk and Akt phosphorylation, cell migration and invasion, as well as in vivo lung tumor formation in mice xenografts. In this respect, the GL21.T aptamer represents a promising therapeutic molecule for Axl-dependent cancers whose importance is highlighted by the paucity of available Axl-specific inhibitory molecules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / pharmacology*
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / therapeutic use*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases