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Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Jan;41(2):e41. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks1036. Epub 2012 Nov 15.

A versatile cis-blocking and trans-activation strategy for ribozyme characterization.

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Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, MC 4201, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Synthetic RNA control devices that use ribozymes as gene-regulatory components have been applied to controlling cellular behaviors in response to environmental signals. Quantitative measurement of the in vitro cleavage rate constants associated with ribozyme-based devices is essential for advancing the molecular design and optimization of this class of gene-regulatory devices. One of the key challenges encountered in ribozyme characterization is the efficient generation of full-length RNA from in vitro transcription reactions, where conditions generally lead to significant ribozyme cleavage. Current methods for generating full-length ribozyme-encoding RNA rely on a trans-blocking strategy, which requires a laborious gel separation and extraction step. Here, we develop a simple two-step gel-free process including cis-blocking and trans-activation steps to support scalable generation of functional full-length ribozyme-encoding RNA. We demonstrate our strategy on various types of natural ribozymes and synthetic ribozyme devices, and the cleavage rate constants obtained for the RNA generated from our strategy are comparable with those generated through traditional methods. We further develop a rapid, label-free ribozyme cleavage assay based on surface plasmon resonance, which allows continuous, real-time monitoring of ribozyme cleavage. The surface plasmon resonance-based characterization assay will complement the versatile cis-blocking and trans-activation strategy to broadly advance our ability to characterize and engineer ribozyme-based devices.

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