Aptamers are oligonucleotide receptors obtained through an iterative selection process from random-sequence libraries. Though many aptamers for a broad range of targets with high affinity and selectivity have been generated, a lack of high-resolution structural data and the limitations of currently available biophysical tools greatly impede understanding of the mechanisms of aptamer-ligand interactions. Here we demonstrate that an approach based on native electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) can be successfully applied to characterize aptamer-ligand complexes in all details. We studied an adenosine-binding aptamer (ABA), a l-argininamide-binding aptamer (LABA), and a cocaine-binding aptamer (CBA) and their noncovalent interactions with ligands by native ESI-MS and complemented these measurements by ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. The ligand selectivity of the aptamers and the respective complex stoichiometry could be determined by the native ESI-MS approach. The ESI-MS data can also help refining the binding model for aptamer-ligand complexes and deliver accurate aptamer-ligand binding affinities for specific and nonspecific binding events. For specific ligands, we found K-d1 = 69.7 mu M and K-d2 = 5.3 mu M for ABA (two binding sites);K-d1 = 22.04 mu M for LABA; and K-d1 = 8.5 mu M for CBA.