The G-quadruplex-forming VEGF-binding aptamer V7t1 was previously found to be highly polymorphic in a K+-containing solution and, to restrict its conformational preferences to a unique, well-defined form, modified nucleotides (LNA and/or UNA) were inserted in its sequence. We here report an in-depth biophysical characterization of V7t1 in a Na+-rich medium, mimicking the extracellular environment in which VEGF targeting should occur, carried out combining several techniques to analyse the conformational behaviour of the aptamer and its binding to the protein. Our results demonstrate that, in the presence of high Na+ concentrations, V7t1 behaves in a very different way if subjected or not to annealing procedures, as evidenced by native gel electrophoresis, size exclusion chromatography and dynamic light scattering analysis. Indeed, not-annealed V7t1 forms both monomeric and dimeric G-quadruplexes, while the annealed oligonucleotide is a monomeric species. Remarkably, only the dimeric aptamer efficiently binds VEGF, showing higher affinity for the protein compared to the monomeric species. These findings provide new precious information for the development of improved V7t1 analogues, allowing more efficient binding to the cancer-related protein and the design of effective biosensors or theranostic devices based on VEGF targeting.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.