Recent studies have revealed several genetic systems in bacteria that use complex RNA structural elements to monitor regulatory signals and control expression of downstream genes. These include RNA thermosensors, in which an inhibitory structure melts at high temperature, and systems where binding of small RNAs or cellular metabolites modulates the structure of the RNA. The remarkable feature of these systems is the ability of the regulatory RNA elements to specifically sense the regulatory signal, without accessory components, and convey that information to the gene expression machinery via a structural change in the nascent RNA.
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