Alternative affinity tools: more attractive than antibodies?

V.J.B. Ruigrok, M. Levisson, M.H.M. Eppink, H. Smidt, J. van der Oost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

146 Citations (Scopus)


Antibodies are the most successful affinity tools used today, in both fundamental and applied research (diagnostics, purification and therapeutics). Nonetheless, antibodies do have their limitations, including high production costs and low stability. Alternative affinity tools based on nucleic acids (aptamers), polypeptides (engineered binding proteins) and inorganic matrices (molecular imprinted polymers) have received considerable attention. A major advantage of these alternatives concerns the efficient (microbial) production and in vitro selection procedures. The latter approach allows for the high-throughput optimization of aptamers and engineered binding proteins, e.g. aiming at enhanced chemical and physical stability. This has resulted in a rapid development of the fields of nucleic acid- and protein-based affinity tools and, although they are certainly not as widely used as antibodies, the number of their applications has steadily increased in recent years. In the present review, we compare the properties of the more conventional antibodies with these innovative affinity tools. Recent advances of affinity tool developments are described, both in a medical setting (e.g. diagnostics, therapeutics and drug delivery) and in several niche areas for which antibodies appear to be less attractive. Furthermore, an outlook is provided on anticipated future developments
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • in-vitro selection
  • molecularly imprinted polymers
  • mouse monoclonal-antibodies
  • high-throughput production
  • aptamer-sirna chimeras
  • messenger-rna display
  • phage display
  • dna-aptamer
  • binding-proteins
  • ribosome display


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