An expanding number of metabolite-binding riboswitch classes are being discovered in the noncoding portions of bacterial genomes. Findings over the last decade indicate that bacteria commonly use these RNA genetic elements as regulators of metabolic pathways and as mediators of changes in cell physiology. Some riboswitches are surprisingly complex, and they rival protein factors in their structural and functional sophistication. Each new riboswitch discovery expands our knowledge of the biochemical capabilities of RNA, and some give rise to new questions that require additional study to be addressed. Some of the greatest prospects for riboswitch research and some of the more interesting mysteries are discussed in this review.
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