Publication – Schwalbe, Süß, Wöhnert, Fürtig

Pausing guides RNA folding to populate transiently stable RNA structures for riboswitch-based transcription regulation.

Steinert’ H, Sochor’ F, Wacker A, Buck J, Helmling C, Hiller F, Keyhani S, Noeske J, Grimm S, Rudolph MM, Keller H, Mooney RA, Landick R, Süß B, Fürtig B, Wöhnert J, Schwalbe H. eLife. 2017 May 25. Abstractor full publication here.

In bacteria, the regulation of gene expression by cis-acting transcriptional riboswitches located in the 5′-untranslated regions of messenger RNA requires the temporal synchronization of RNA synthesis and ligand binding-dependent conformational refolding. Ligand binding to the aptamer domain of the riboswitch induces premature termination of the mRNA synthesis of ligand-associated genes due to the coupled formation of 3′-structural elements acting as terminators. To date, there has been no high resolution structural description of the concerted process of synthesis and ligand-induced restructuring of the regulatory RNA element. Here, we show that for the guanine-sensing xpt-pbuX riboswitch from Bacillus subtilis, the conformation of the full-length transcripts is static: it exclusively populates the functional off-state but cannot switch to the on-state, regardless of the presence or absence of ligand. We show that only the combined matching of transcription rates and ligand binding enables transcription intermediates to undergo ligand-dependent conformational refolding.