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Curr Biol. 1997 Nov 1;7(11):877-80.

Protective effects of an aptamer inhibitor of neutrophil elastase in lung inflammatory injury.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Neutrophils play an important part in the development of acute inflammatory injury. Human neutrophils contain high levels of the serine protease elastase, which is stored in azurophilic granules and is secreted in response to inflammatory stimuli. Elastase is capable of degrading many components of extracellular matrix [1-4] and has cytotoxic effects on endothelial cells [5-7] and airway epithelial cells. Three types of endogenous protease inhibitors control the activity of neutrophil elastase, including alpha-1 protease inhibitor (alpha-1PI), alpha-2 macroglobulin and secreted leukoproteinase inhibitor (SLPI) [8-10]. A disturbed balance between neutrophil elastase and these inhibitors has been found in various acute clinical conditions (such as adult respiratory syndrome and ischemia-reperfusion injury) and in chronic diseases. We investigated the effect of NX21909, a selected oligonucleotide (aptamer) inhibitor of elastase, in an animal model of acute lung inflammatory disease [11-14]. This inhibitor was previously selected from a hybrid library of randomized DNA and a small-molecule irreversible inhibitor of elastase (a valine diphenyl ester phosphonate, Fig. 1), by the blended SELEX process [15]. We show that NX21909 inhibits lung injury and neutrophil influx in a dose-dependent manner, the first demonstration of efficacy by an aptamer in an animal disease model.

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