We have engineered allosteric ribozymes by combining modular rational design with combinatorial strategies. This new procedure was used to create allosteric ribozymes that are activated by specific nucleoside 3',5'-cyclic monophosphates (cNMPs). A random-sequence domain was attached to stem II of hammerhead ribozymes via a communication module that serves as an interface between ribozyme and the effector binding site. Subjecting this initial random pool to in vitro selection methods produced populations that respond, or cleave, only in the presence of specific effector molecules. From generation 18, 20 and 23, cGMP, cCMP and cAMP-specific responsive ribozymes, respectively, were isolated and characterized. These methods show great promise for engineering allosteric ribozymes and for creating new ligand-specific aptamers.
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