Screening The Genome For Riboswitches

A genome-wide method has identified RNA aptamers that can bind to key metabolites, including vitamin B2.

AsianScientist (Jun. 18, 2018) – A research group in Singapore has developed a rapid, large-scale screening method for biological sensors known as riboswitches, or RNA sensors. Their findings are reported in Nature Communications.

RNA sensors are important regulatory elements which enable organisms to sense and respond to environmental changes. The ability to comprehensively identify these RNA sensors could expand the toolbox for synthetic biology, which combines science and engineering to design and build new biological parts, devices or systems.

In this study, scientists led by Dr. Wan Yue and Professor Niranjan Nagarajan at the Genome Institute of Singapore have developed a high-throughput method for screening for RNA sensors. Their findings could lead to a better understanding of how the human body detects and responds to environmental changes.

The researchers also discovered two new RNA sensors that sense vitamin B2 and showed that cellular gene and protein expression levels change in the presence of vitamin B2. Previously, it was generally thought that riboswitches mostly exist in bacteria, and the only known class of eukaryotic (complex organisms such as mammals) riboswitches was for vitamin B1.

The discovery of a vitamin B2 riboswitch in Candida albicans, a yeast-like parasitic fungus, opens the door to potentially new classes of riboswitches regulating gene expression in other organisms. These findings also reveal that RNA sensors play a more widespread role in controlling gene expression than previously expected.

“A thermometer can tell us whether the temperature is too hot or cold, and we can then decide what to do in response. RNA sensors act as biological thermometers to detect environmental changes to inform us how to react under such environmental fluctuations. They can be linked with light-emitting substances to monitor metabolic changes within our cells, informing researchers and clinicians of our cellular metabolic states in real time,” said Wan.

The article can be found at: Tapsin et al. (2018) Genome-wide Identification of Natural RNA Aptamers in Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes.


Source: A*STAR; Photo: Shutterstock.
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