UMMS Affiliation

Gene Therapy Center

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Document Type



Biochemistry | Genetics and Genomics


Efforts to control mammalian gene expression with ligand-responsive riboswitches have been hindered by lack of a general method for generating efficient switches in mammalian systems. Here we describe a rational-design approach that enables rapid development of efficient cis-acting aptazyme riboswitches. We identified communication-module characteristics associated with aptazyme functionality through analysis of a 32-aptazyme test panel. We then developed a scoring system that predicts an aptazymes's activity by integrating three characteristics of communication-module bases: hydrogen bonding, base stacking, and distance to the enzymatic core. We validated the power and generality of this approach by designing aptazymes responsive to three distinct ligands, each with markedly wider dynamic ranges than any previously reported. These aptayzmes efficiently regulated adeno-associated virus (AAV)-vectored transgene expression in cultured mammalian cells and mice, highlighting one application of these broadly usable regulatory switches. Our approach enables efficient, protein-independent control of gene expression by a range of small molecules.


RNA switch, aptazyme, biochemistry, gene regulation, human, mammalian cells, mouse, small molecule

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Copyright © 2016, Zhong et al.

DOI of Published Version



Elife. 2016 Nov 2;5. pii: e18858. doi: 10.7554/eLife.18858. Link to article on publisher's site

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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