RNA aptamers offer a potential therapeutic approach to the competitive inhibition of DNA-binding transcription factors. In previous reports we described in vitro selection and characterization of anti-NF-κB p50 and p65 RNA aptamers. We now describe the further characterization of these aptamers in vitro and in vivo. We show that sub-saturating concentrations of certain anti-p50 RNA aptamers promote complex formation with NF-κB p50 tetramers, whereas anti-p65 R1 RNA aptamers bind NF-κB dimers under all conditions tested. Yeast three-hybrid RNA aptamer specificity studies corroborate previous in vitro results, verifying that anti-p50 and anti-p65 R1 RNA aptamers are highly specific for NF-κB p502 and p652, respectively. These studies introduce a novel T-cassette RNA transcript that improves RNA display from a four-way RNA junction. Mutagenesis of the anti-p65 R1 aptamer reveals tolerated substitutions, suggesting a complex tertiary structure. We describe in vivo selections from a yeast three-hybrid RNA library containing sequences present early in the R1 SELEX process to identify novel anti-p65 RNA aptamers, termed Y1 and Y3. These aptamers appear to be compact bulged hairpins, reminiscent of anti-p50. Y1 competitively inhibits the DNA-binding domain of NF-κB p652 in vitro.
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