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Discovery of iron-sensing bacterial riboswitches.

PMID: 33020663 (view PubMed database entry)
DOI: 10.1038/s41589-020-00665-7 (read at publisher's website )

Siladitya Bandyopadhyay, Susmitnarayan Chaudhury, Dolly Mehta, Arati Ramesh,

Despite the central role of iron in biology, our understanding of how cells sense iron is limited to protein-dependent mechanisms. Here, we report the discovery of iron-sensing riboswitches (named Sensei). Present across bacterial phyla, these RNAs reside in the 5' untranslated regions or within coding regions of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) encoding iron-related proteins. These riboswitches bind the reduced form of iron with high specificity. Iron binding causes conformational changes in the riboswitch that alter the accessibility of conserved nucleotides, ultimately enabling a genetic response. Sensei-iron interactions result in increased translation of the riboswitch-associated mRNA in vivo, thus positioning these riboswitches as true metalloregulators. Learning from natural Sensei RNAs, we engineer metal selectivity, successfully converting a nickel/cobalt sensing riboswitch to exclusively bind iron and a Sensei RNA to now exclusively recognize cobalt. We thus define the sequence and structural space of iron-sensing RNAs and open avenues for the design of RNA-based biosensors.

Nat Chem Biol (Nature chemical biology)
[2020, :]

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