During the past years customized gene network design has become of tremendous interest among various disciplines in life science. The identification of artificial genetic elements sensitive to internal or external stimuli constitutes the foundation for the design and realization of conditional gene expression systems. Typically, strategies involving selection or screening steps are employed alongside approaches focusing on rational design to select for the desired functionality of a given element. Here we present a fluorescence-based in vivo screening approach that combines an initial in vitro selection with subsequent extensive screening steps and a final rational design to identify RNA based regulators in baker's yeast. These artificial RNA regulators, termed synthetic riboswitches, are derived from RNA aptamers. Our method allows for the separation of aptamers featuring the potential to be transformed into a riboswitch from those inherently unable to confer control over gene expression. The system may be applied to virtually all existing aptamer-ligand pairs and as such presents a powerful means to enhance the setup of switchable genetic circuits.
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