3 years ago

An excited state underlies gene regulation of a transcriptional riboswitch

An excited state underlies gene regulation of a transcriptional riboswitch
Bo Zhao, Benfeard Williams, Qi Zhang, Sharon L Guffy
Riboswitches control gene expression through ligand-dependent structural rearrangements of the sensing aptamer domain. However, we found that the Bacillus cereus fluoride riboswitch aptamer adopts identical tertiary structures in solution with and without ligand. Using chemical-exchange saturation transfer (CEST) NMR spectroscopy, we revealed that the structured ligand-free aptamer transiently accesses a low-populated (~1%) and short-lived (~3 ms) excited conformational state that unravels a conserved 'linchpin' base pair to signal transcription termination. Upon fluoride binding, this highly localized, fleeting process is allosterically suppressed, which activates transcription. We demonstrated that this mechanism confers effective fluoride-dependent gene activation over a wide range of transcription rates, which is essential for robust toxicity responses across diverse cellular conditions. These results unveil a novel switching mechanism that employs ligand-dependent suppression of an aptamer excited state to coordinate regulatory conformational transitions rather than adopting distinct aptamer ground-state tertiary architectures, exemplifying a new mode of ligand-dependent RNA regulation.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.2427

DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2427

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