Thermozymes: Synthetic RNA thermometers based on ribozyme activity

 Abstract

Synthetic biology approaches often combine natural building blocks to generate new cellular activities. Here, we make use of two RNA elements to design a regulatory device with novel functionality. The system is based on a hammerhead ribozyme (HHR) that cleaves itself to generate a liberated ribosome-binding site and, thus, permits expression of a downstream gene. We connected a temperature-responsive RNA hairpin to the HHR and, thus, generated a temperature-controlled ribozyme that we call thermozyme. Specifically, a Salmonella RNA thermometer (RNAT) known to modulate small heat shock gene expression by temperature-controlled base-pairing and melting was fused to the ribozyme. Following an in vivo screening approach, we isolated two functional thermozymes. In vivo expression studies and in vitro structure probing experiments support a mechanism in which rising temperatures melt the thermometer structure impairing the self-cleavage reaction of the ribozyme. Since RNA cleavage is necessary to liberate the RBS, these engineered thermozymes shut off gene expression in response to a temperature increase and, thus, act in a reverse manner as the natural RNAT. Our results clearly emphasize the highly modular nature and biotechnological potential of ribozyme-based RNA thermometers.

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Pages
1009 - 1016
doi
10.4161/rna.24482
Type
Research Paper
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Thermozymes: Synthetic RNA thermometers based on ribozyme activity