Prof. Dr. Beatrix Süß

Department of Biology, Technical University Darmstadt, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany


Title: RNA aptamers as genetic control devices – the potential of riboswitches as synthetic elements for regulating gene expression

RNA utilizes many different mechanisms to control gene expression. Among the regulatory elements that respond to external stimuli, riboswitches are a prominent and elegant example. They consist solely of RNA and couple binding of a small molecule ligand to the so-called “aptamer domain” with a conformational change in the downstream “expression platform” which then determines system output. The modular organization of riboswitches and the relative ease with which ligand-binding RNA aptamers can be selected in vitro against almost any molecule have led to the rapid and widespread adoption of engineered riboswitches as artificial genetic control devices in biotechnology and synthetic biology over the past decade.

We will highlight proof-of-principle applications to demonstrate the versatility and robustness of engineered riboswitches in regulating gene expression in bacteria and report about new strategies of synthetic riboswitches in eukarya with a special focus on the control of alternative splicing. We will report on strategies and parameters to identify aptamers that can be integrated into synthetic riboswitches, before finishing with a reflection on how to improve the regulatory properties of engineered riboswitches, so that we can not only further expand riboswitch applicability, but also fully exploit their potential as control elements in regulating gene expression.