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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 Nov;36(19):e124. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn545. Epub 2008 Aug 27.

Design of simple synthetic RNA thermometers for temperature-controlled gene expression in Escherichia coli.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie, Am Mühlenberg 1, D-14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany.


RNA thermometers are thermosensors that regulate gene expression by temperature-induced changes in RNA conformation. Naturally occurring RNA thermometers exhibit complex secondary structures which are believed to undergo a series of gradual structural changes in response to temperature shifts. Here, we report the de novo design of considerably simpler RNA thermometers that provide useful RNA-only tools to regulate bacterial gene expression by a shift in the growth temperature. We show that a single small stem-loop structure containing the ribosome binding site is sufficient to construct synthetic RNA thermometers that work efficiently at physiological temperatures. Our data suggest that the thermometers function by a simple melting mechanism and thus provide minimum size on/off switches to experimentally induce or repress gene expression by temperature.

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