Folding of the SAM-I riboswitch: A tale with a twist

SH Eschbach, P St-Pierre, Carlos Penedo, DA Lafontaine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Riboswitches are ligand-dependent RNA genetic regulators that control gene expression by altering their structures. The elucidation of riboswitch conformational changes before and after ligand recognition is crucial to understand how riboswitches can achieve high ligand binding affinity and discrimination against cellular analogs. The detailed characterization of riboswitch folding pathways suggest that they may use their intrinsic conformational dynamics to sample a large array of structures, some of which being nearly identical to ligand-bound molecules. Some of these structural conformers can be “captured” upon ligand binding, which is crucial for the outcome of gene regulation. Recent studies about the SAM-I riboswitch have revealed unexpected and previously unknown RNA folding mechanisms. For instance, the observed helical twist of the P1 stem upon ligand binding to the SAM-I aptamer adds a new element in the repertoire of RNA strategies for recognition of small metabolites. From an RNA folding perspective, these findings also strongly indicate that the SAM-I riboswitch could achieve ligand recognition by using an optimized combination of conformational capture and induced-fit approaches, a feature that may be shared by other RNA regulatory sequences
Original languageEnglish
JournalRNA Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 2012


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