Origins and evolving functionalities of tRNA-derived small RNAs

Qi Chen, Xudong Zhang, Junchao Shi, Menghong Yan, Tong Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Transfer RNA (tRNA)-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs) are among the most ancient small RNAs in all domains of life and are generated by the cleavage of tRNAs. Emerging studies have begun to reveal the versatile roles of tsRNAs in fundamental biological processes, including gene silencing, ribosome biogenesis, retrotransposition, and epigenetic inheritance, which are rooted in tsRNA sequence conservation, RNA modifications, and protein-binding abilities. We summarize the mechanisms of tsRNA biogenesis and the impact of RNA modifications, and propose how thinking of tsRNA functionality from an evolutionary perspective urges the expansion of tsRNA research into a wider spectrum, including cross-tissue/cross-species regulation and harnessing of the 'tsRNA code' for precision medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-804
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Biochemical Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Argonaute proteins
  • mimicry
  • ribonucleoprotein (RNP)
  • ribozyme
  • tRNA fragmentation
  • translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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