A switch in time: detailing the life of a riboswitch

Biochim Biophys Acta. Sep-Oct 2009;1789(9-10):584-91. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2009.06.004. Epub 2009 Jul 9.


Riboswitches are non-protein coding RNA elements typically found in the 5' untranslated region (5'-UTR) of mRNAs that utilize metabolite binding to control expression of their own transcript. The RNA-ligand interaction causes conformational changes in the RNA that direct the cotranscriptional folding of a downstream secondary structural switch that interfaces with the expression machinery. This review describes the structural themes common to the different RNA-metabolite complexes studied to date and conclusions that can be made regarding how these RNAs efficiently couple metabolite binding to gene regulation. Emphasis is placed on the temporal aspects of riboswitch regulation that are central to the function of these RNAs and the need to augment the wealth of data on metabolite receptor domains with further studies on the full regulatory element, particularly in the context of transcription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Open Reading Frames
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Terminator Regions, Genetic
  • Thermotoga maritima / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Ligands
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA