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EMBO Rep. 2008 Jul;9(7):623-8. doi: 10.1038/embor.2008.101. Epub 2008 Jun 13.

Transfer RNA genes in pieces.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, PO Box 208114, 266 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


The short genes encoding transfer RNA (tRNA) molecules are highly conserved in both sequence and structure, reflecting the central role of tRNA in protein biosynthesis. The frequent occurrence of fragmented intron-containing tRNAs that require processing to form contiguous molecules is therefore surprising. Recent discoveries of permuted and split tRNA genes have added to the apparent creativity of nature regarding the organization of these fragmented genes. Here, we provide an overview of the various types of fragmented tRNA genes and examine the hypothesis that the integration of mobile genetic elements--including viruses and plasmids--established such genes in pieces.

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