A riboswitch-regulated antisense RNA in Listeria monocytogenes

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 6;110(32):13132-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304795110. Epub 2013 Jul 22.


Riboswitches are ligand-binding elements located in 5' untranslated regions of messenger RNAs, which regulate expression of downstream genes. In Listeria monocytogenes, a vitamin B12-binding (B12) riboswitch was identified, not upstream of a gene but downstream, and antisense to the adjacent gene, pocR, suggesting it might regulate pocR in a nonclassical manner. In Salmonella enterica, PocR is a transcription factor that is activated by 1,2-propanediol, and subsequently activates expression of the pdu genes. The pdu genes mediate propanediol catabolism and are implicated in pathogenesis. As enzymes involved in propanediol catabolism require B12 as a cofactor, we hypothesized that the Listeria B12 riboswitch might be involved in pocR regulation. Here we demonstrate that the B12 riboswitch is transcribed as part of a noncoding antisense RNA, herein named AspocR. In the presence of B12, the riboswitch induces transcriptional termination, causing aspocR to be transcribed as a short transcript. In contrast, in the absence of B12, aspocR is transcribed as a long antisense RNA, which inhibits pocR expression. Regulation by AspocR ensures that pocR, and consequently the pdu genes, are maximally expressed only when both propanediol and B12 are present. Strikingly, AspocR can inhibit pocR expression in trans, suggesting it acts through a direct interaction with pocR mRNA. Together, this study demonstrates how pocR and the pdu genes can be regulated by B12 in bacteria and extends the classical definition of riboswitches from elements governing solely the expression of mRNAs to a wider role in controlling transcription of noncoding RNAs.

Keywords: asRNA; cobalamin; infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Western
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Hydro-Lyases / genetics
  • Hydro-Lyases / metabolism
  • Listeria monocytogenes / genetics*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Propylene Glycol / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Stability / genetics
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics*
  • RNA, Antisense / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Riboswitch / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Riboswitch
  • Transcription Factors
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Hydro-Lyases
  • Vitamin B 12