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tRFs & tiRNAs: small RNAs with distinct and varied functions

tRNA is known to be an adaptor molecule to decode and translate mRNA into protein. However, recent studies have discovered tRNAs to be a major source of small non-coding RNAs, with their abundance levels often higher than microRNAs. tRNA derived fragments (tRF) and tRNA halves (tiRNA) are generated from tRNAs by precise biogenesis processes (Fig. 1), having distinct and varied functions to [1-3]:

  • Act similarly as microRNA in Ago complexes.
  • Inhibit protein synthesis by displacing eIF4G translation initiation factor.
  • Suppress proliferation and modulate DNA damage response in a miRNA fashion.
  • Destabilize oncogenic mRNAs by competitive binding to YBX1.
  • Prevent apoptosis by complex with Cyt-C.
  • Promote stress granule assembly to help cell survival.
  • Sensitize oxidative-stress-induced p53 activation and neuron cell death.
  • Mediate epigenetic inheritance of diet-induced metabolic disorder.
  • Associate with diseases such as cancers, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.

The disease association and the abundance in biofluids and the cells make tRFs/tiRNAs attractive for biomarker applications [2-4].

Arraystar tRF & tiRNA sequencing service focuses on tRF/tiRNA profiling, together with miRNA profiling specialized and optimized for the workflow. The dedicated analyses and annotation are equipped for tRF/tiRNA structure and biology. The vertical comparison with microRNAs and horizontal comparison with tRFs/tiRNAs in the databases provide rich integral information for functional search and biomarker screening.

Figure 1. Biogenesis of tRF/tiRNA derived from tRNA or pre-tRNA


1. Anderson P. and P. Ivanov (2014) "tRNA fragments in human health and disease." FEBS Lett. 588(23):4297-304 [PMID: 25220675]
2. Telonis A.G. et al. (2015) "Dissecting tRNA-derived fragment complexities using personalized transcriptomes reveals novel fragment classes and unexpected dependencies." Oncotarget 6(28):24797-822 [PMID: 26325506]
3. Olvedy M. et al. (2016) "A comprehensive repertoire of tRNA-derived fragments in prostate cancer." Oncotarget [PMID: 27015120]
4. Dhahbi J.M. et al. (2013) "5' tRNA halves are present as abundant complexes in serum, concentrated in blood cells, and modulated by aging and calorie restriction." BMC Genomics 14:298 [PMID: 23638709]
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