Construction and application of riboswitch-based sensors that detect metabolites within bacterial cells

Methods Mol Biol. 2014;1103:177-97. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-730-3_14.


A riboswitch is an RNA element that detects the level of a specific metabolite within the cell and regulates the expression of co-transcribed genes. By fusing a riboswitch to a reporter protein in a carefully designed and tested construct, this ability can be exploited to create an intracellular sensor that detects the level of a particular small molecule within live bacterial cells. There is a great deal of flexibility in the design of such a sensor and factors such as the molecule to be detected and the downstream experiments in which the sensor will be applied should guide the specific blueprint of the final construct. The completed sensor plasmid needs to be rigorously tested with appropriate controls to ensure that its dynamic range, signal strength, sensitivity and specificity are suitable for its intended applications. In this chapter, methods for the design, assessment and use of riboswitch sensors are provided along with those for one example application for which riboswitch sensors are ideally suited.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / cytology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Culture Media / metabolism
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Molecular Biology / methods
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Riboswitch / genetics*


  • Culture Media
  • Riboswitch