A Universal DNA Aptamer that Recognizes Spike Proteins of Diverse SARS‐CoV‐2 Variants of Concern
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We report on a unique DNA aptamer, denoted MSA52, that displays universally high affinity for the spike proteins of wildtype SARS-CoV-2 as well as the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, Kappa, Delta and Omicron variants. Using an aptamer pool produced from round 13 of selection against the S1 domain of the wildtype spike protein, we carried out one-round SELEX experiments using five different trimeric spike proteins from variants, followed by high-throughput sequencing and sequence alignment analysis of aptamers that formed complexes with all proteins. A previously unidentified aptamer, MSA52, showed Kd values ranging from 2 to 10 nM for all variant spike proteins, and also bound similarly to variants not present in the reselection experiments. This aptamer also recognized pseudotyped lentiviruses (PL) expressing eight different spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2 with Kd values between 20 and 50 pM, and was integrated into a simple colorimetric assay for detection of multiple PL variants. This discovery provides evidence that aptamers can be generated with high affinity to multiple variants of a single protein, including emerging variants, making it well-suited for molecular recognition of rapidly evolving targets such as those found in SARS-CoV-2.