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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2007 Jun;17(3):273-9. Epub 2007 Jun 15.

Riboswitches: small-molecule recognition by gene regulatory RNAs.

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Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA.


Riboswitches demonstrate the ability of highly structured RNA molecules to recognize small-molecule metabolites with high specificity and subsequently harness the binding energy for the control of gene expression. Crystal structures have now been determined for the metabolite-binding domains of riboswitches that respond to purines, thiamine pyrophosphate and S-adenosylmethionine, as well as for the glmS ribozyme, a catalytic riboswitch that is activated by the metabolite glucosamine-6-phosphate. In addition to these riboswitch structures, a solution NMR structure has been reported for a ribosensor that regulates heat shock genes in response to changes in temperature. These studies reveal the structural basis of the remarkable selectivity of riboswitches and, in conjunction with biochemical and biophysical measurements, provide a framework for detailed mechanistic understanding of riboswitch-mediated modulation of gene expression.

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