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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 27;101(17):6421-6. Epub 2004 Apr 19.

New RNA motifs suggest an expanded scope for riboswitches in bacterial genetic control.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, P.O. Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA.


The expression of certain genes involved in fundamental metabolism is regulated by metabolite-binding "riboswitch" elements embedded within their corresponding mRNAs. We have identified at least six additional elements within the Bacillus subtilis genome that exhibit characteristics of riboswitch function (glmS, gcvT, ydaO/yuaA, ykkC/yxkD, ykoK, and yybP/ykoY). These motifs exhibit extensive sequence and secondary-structure conservation among many bacterial species and occur upstream of related genes. The element located upstream of the glmS gene in Gram-positive organisms functions as a metabolite-dependent ribozyme that responds to glucosamine-6-phosphate. Other motifs form complex folded structures when transcribed as RNA molecules and carry intrinsic terminator structures. These findings indicate that riboswitches serve as a major genetic regulatory mechanism for the control of metabolic genes in many microbial species.

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