Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) is a serious disease impacting wild and cultured fish worldwide. Hence, an effective therapeutic method against VHSV infection needs to be developed. Aptamer technology is a new and promising method for diagnostics and therapeutics. It revolves around the use of an aptamer molecule, an artificial ligand (nucleic acid or protein), which has the capacity to recognize target molecules with high affinity and specificity. Here, we aimed at selecting RNA aptamers that can specifically bind to and inhibit the growth of a strain of fish VHSV both in vitro and in vivo. Three VHSV-specific RNA aptamers (F1, F2, and C6) were selected from a pool of artificially and randomly produced oligonucleotides using systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment. The three RNA aptamers showed obvious binding to VHSV in an electrophoretic mobility shift assay but not to other tested viruses. The RNA aptamers were tested for their ability to inhibit VHSV in vitro using hirame natural embryo (HINAE) cells. Cytopathic effect and plaque assays showed that all aptamers inhibited the growth of VHSV in HINAE cells. In vivo tests using RNA aptamers produced by Rhodovulum sulfidophilum showed that extracellular RNA aptamers inhibited VHSV infection in Japanese flounder. These results suggest that the RNA aptamers are a useful tool for protection against VHSV infection in Japanese flounder.
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