Findeiss, S.,Etzel, M.,Will, S.,Morl, M.,Stadler, P. F.

RNA aptamers readily recognize small organic molecules, polypeptides, as well as other nucleic acids in a highly specific manner. Many such aptamers have evolved as parts of regulatory systems in nature. Experimental selection techniques such as SELEX have been very successful in finding artificial aptamers for a wide variety of natural and synthetic ligands. Changes in structure and/or stability of aptamers upon ligand binding can propagate through larger RNA constructs and cause specific structural changes at distal positions. In turn, these may affect transcription, translation, splicing, or binding events. The RNA secondary structure model realistically describes both thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of RNA structure formation and refolding at a single, consistent level of modelling. Thus, this framework allows studying the function of natural riboswitches in silico. Moreover, it enables rationally designing artificial switches, combining essentially arbitrary sensors with a broad choice of read-out systems. Eventually, this approach sets the stage for constructing versatile biosensors.