Riboswitches are gene regulatory elements located in untranslated mRNA regions. They bind inducer molecules with high affinity and specificity. Cyclic-di-nucleotide-sensing riboswitches are major regulators of genes for the environment, membranes and motility (GEMM) of bacteria. Up to now, structural probing assays or crystal structures have provided insight into the interaction between cyclic-di-nucleotides and their corresponding riboswitches. ITC analysis, NMR analysis and computational modeling allowed us to gain a detailed understanding of the gene regulation mechanisms for the Cd1 (Clostridium difficile) and for the pilM (Geobacter metallireducens) riboswitches and their respective di-nucleotides c-di-GMP and c-GAMP. Binding capability showed a 25 nucleotide (nt) long window for pilM and a 61 nt window for Cd1. Within this window, binding affinities ranged from 35 μM to 0.25 μM spanning two orders of magnitude for Cd1 and pilM showing a strong dependence on competing riboswitch folds. Experimental results were incorporated into a Markov simulation to further our understanding of the transcriptional folding pathways of riboswitches. Our model showed the ability to predict riboswitch gene regulation and its dependence on transcription speed, pausing and ligand concentration.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.