Amino acid recognition and gene regulation by riboswitches
Riboswitches specifically control expression of genes predominantly involved in biosynthesis, catabolism and transport of various cellular metabolites in organisms from all three kingdoms of life. Among many classes of identified riboswitches, two riboswitches respond to amino acids lysine and glycine to date. Though these riboswitches recognize small compounds, they both belong to the largest riboswitches and have unique structural and functional characteristics. In this review, we attempt to characterize molecular recognition principles employed by amino acid-responsive riboswitches to selectively bind their cognate ligands and to effectively perform a gene regulation function. We summarize up-to-date biochemical and genetic data available for the lysine and glycine riboswitches and correlate these results with recent high-resolution structural information obtained for the lysine riboswitch. We also discuss the contribution of lysine riboswitches to antibiotic resistance and outline potential applications of riboswitches in biotechnology and medicine.
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