Riboswitch discovery and characterisation have come a long way since the term was first coined almost two decades ago. Riboswitches themselves are likely derived from ancient ligand-binding transcripts, which have evolved into sophisticated genetic control elements that are widespread in prokaryotes. Riboswitches are associated with a multitude of cellular processes including biosynthetic pathways, transport mechanisms and stress responses leading to an ever-increasing appreciation for an in-depth understanding of their triggers and functions in order to address physiological and regulatory questions. The majority of riboswitches exert their control via transcriptional or translational expression platforms depending on their genetic context. It remains, however, to be determined precisely why one platform is favoured over another. Is this a question of the layout of the gene expression machinery, ligand availability, the degree of control required, serendipity or various combinations of these? With this review, rather than providing answers, I am hoping to plant a seed for further scientific discussions about this puzzle.

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