Using a riboswitch sensor to examine coenzyme B(12) metabolism and transport in E. coli

Chem Biol. 2010 Jul 30;17(7):756-65. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2010.05.025.


Small molecules play crucial roles in every major cellular process. Despite this, detecting their levels within cells remains a significant challenge. Here, we describe intracellular sensors of coenzyme B(12) that make use of the exquisite molecular detection capabilities of a naturally occurring riboswitch. These probes sensitively detect their target using colorimetric, fluorescent, or luminescent reporters. To assess their utility in the study of biological systems, the sensors were applied to examine the synthesis and the import of coenzyme B(12). The sensors were able to monitor the effects of genetic deletions, recombinant expression of foreign genes, and varied growth conditions on both of these processes. These results indicate that riboswitch-based sensors can provide valuable information on intracellular small molecule concentrations that can be employed in the study of related cellular processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cobamides / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid*
  • Time Factors


  • Cobamides
  • Ligands
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid