Potent second-generation thrombin aptamers adopt a duplex-quadruplex bimodular folding and recognize thrombin exosite II with very high affinity and specificity. A sound model of these oligonucleotides, either free or in complex with thrombin, is not yet available. Here, a structural study of one of these aptamers, HD22-27mer, is presented. The crystal structure of this aptamer in complex with thrombin displays a novel architecture in which the helical stem is enchained to a pseudo-G-quadruplex. The results also underline the role of the residues that join the duplex and quadruplex motifs and control their recruitment in thrombin binding.
Keywords: aptamers; duplex–quadruplex motifs; thrombin.