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Riboswitches are found in bacteria, fungi, and plants. They are mRNA elements that regulate gene expression through structural changes. These structural changes are due to riboswitches binding to small molecules such as metabolites or metal ions. Riboswitches have been shown to regulate essential genes for bacteria’s survival. Our research focused on evaluating the diversity of riboswitches between B. subtilis subspecies and the possible explanations for the differences in riboswitch profiles. To do this, we found the riboswitches in B. subtilis subspecies using bioinformatic tools and conducted a cluster analysis of the riboswitch profiles between subspecies. We found low diversity in the riboswitch classes present and in the abundance of riboswitches within each class, however we found a considerable amount of diversity in the abundances between riboswitch classes and in purine riboswitch sequences among B. subtilis subspecies. We also found that ecological niche and phylogeny may not be related to the riboswitch profiles of B. subtilis subspecies. Additionally, we isolated Bacillus species from the environment and food and found notable differences in the abundances of riboswitches within a riboswitch class between Bacillus species. We infer that the diversity in the abundance of riboswitches within riboswitch class between Bacillus species may be due to horizontal gene transfer. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, and literature shows that riboswitches can be a potential target for antibiotics. In order to better understand riboswitches as a potential antibiotic target, diversity of riboswitches in bacteria must be investigated. Finding the essential riboswitches for bacteria’s survival and how they differ between subspecies and species would inform the scientific community of more specific antibiotic targets for each species.
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Mendoza, Rachael, "Investigation of the Diversity of Riboswitches in Bacillus Subtilis" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 320.