Emerging applications of riboswitches - from antibacterial targets to molecular tools

J Appl Genet. 2016 Nov;57(4):531-541. doi: 10.1007/s13353-016-0341-x. Epub 2016 Mar 28.


The ability to precisely regulate gene expression is one of the most important features of the living cells as it enables the adaptation and survival in different environmental conditions. The majority of regulatory mechanisms involve protein action, however, multiple genes are controlled by nucleic acids. Among RNA-based regulators, the riboswitches present a large group of specific domains within messenger RNAs able to respond to small metabolites, tRNA, secondary messengers, ions, vitamins or amino acids. A simple, accurate, and efficient mechanism of action as well as easiness in handling and engineering make the riboswitches a potent practical tool in industry, medicine, pharmacy or environmental protection. Hereby, we summarize the current achievements and challenges in designing and practical employment of the riboswitch-based tools.

Keywords: Aptamer; Aptazyme; Biosensor; Gene expression regulation; Riboselector; Riboswitch.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Biosensing Techniques
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Purines / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA Splicing
  • Riboswitch*
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphate / chemistry
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Viruses / genetics


  • Purines
  • Riboswitch
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • RNA
  • Cyclic GMP
  • Lysine
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphate