Unraveling RNA dynamical behavior of TPP riboswitches: a comparison between Escherichia coli and Arabidopsis thaliana

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 12;9(1):4197. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40875-1.


Riboswitches are RNA sensors that affect post-transcriptional processes through their ability to bind to small molecules. Thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) riboswitch class is the most widespread riboswitch occurring in all three domains of life. Even though it controls different genes involved in the synthesis or transport of thiamine and its phosphorylated derivatives in bacteria, archaea, fungi, and plants, the TPP aptamer has a conserved structure. In this study, we aimed at understanding differences in the structural dynamics of TPP riboswitches from Escherichia coli and Arabidopsis thaliana, based on their crystallographic structures (TPPswec and TPPswat, respectively) and dynamics in aqueous solution, both in apo and holo states. A combination of Molecular Dynamics Simulations and Network Analysis empowered to find out slight differences in the dynamical behavior of TPP riboswitches, although relevant for their dynamics in bacteria and plants species. Our results suggest that distinct interactions in the microenvironment surrounding nucleotide U36 of TPPswec (and U35 in TPPswat) are related to different responses to TPP. The network analysis showed that minor structural differences in the aptamer enable enhanced intramolecular communication in the presence of TPP in TPPswec, but not in TPPswat. TPP riboswitches of plants present subtler and slower regulation mechanisms than bacteria do.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / chemistry*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • RNA, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / chemistry*
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • Riboswitch*
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphatase*


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Plant
  • Riboswitch
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphatase