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Science 335 (6065): 233-235

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Widespread Genetic Switches and Toxicity Resistance Proteins for Fluoride

Jenny L. Baker,1,* Narasimhan Sudarsan,2,3,* Zasha Weinberg,2,3 Adam Roth,2,3 Randy B. Stockbridge,4 Ronald R. Breaker2,3,5,{dagger}

Abstract: Most riboswitches are metabolite-binding RNA structures located in bacterial messenger RNAs where they control gene expression. We have discovered a riboswitch class in many bacterial and archaeal species whose members are selectively triggered by fluoride but reject other small anions, including chloride. These fluoride riboswitches activate expression of genes that encode putative fluoride transporters, enzymes that are known to be inhibited by fluoride, and additional proteins of unknown function. Our findings indicate that most organisms are naturally exposed to toxic levels of fluoride and that many species use fluoride-sensing RNAs to control the expression of proteins that alleviate the deleterious effects of this anion.

1 Department of Chemistry, Yale University, Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
2 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University, Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
3 Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
4 Department of Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454, USA.
5 Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ronald.breaker{at}

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