SELEX is a technology for the identification of high affinity oligonucleotide ligands. Large libraries of random sequence single-stranded oligonucleotides, whether RNA or DNA, can be thought of conformationally not as short strings but rather as sequence dependent folded structures with high degrees of molecular rigidity in solution. This conformational complexity means that such a library is a source of high affinity ligands for a surprising variety of molecular targets, including nucleic acid binding proteins such as polymerases and transcription factors, non-nucleic acid binding proteins such as cytokins and growth factors, as well as small organic molecules such as ATP and theophylline. The range of applications of this technology for new discovery extends from basic research reagents to the identification of novel diagnostic and therapeutic reagents. Examples of these applications are described along with a discussion of underlying principles and future developments expected to further the utility of SELEX.