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Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Oct 10;47(18):9888-9901. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz732.

Regulation of La/SSB-dependent viral gene expression by pre-tRNA 3' trailer-derived tRNA fragments.

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Department of Biotechnology, Yonsei University, 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 03722, Korea.
Severance Biomedical Science Institute, Yonsei University College of Medicine, 50-1 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 03722, Korea.


tRNA-derived RNA fragments (tRFs) have emerged as a new class of functional RNAs implicated in cancer, metabolic and neurological disorders, and viral infection. Yet our understanding of their biogenesis and functions remains limited. In the present study, through analysis of small RNA profile we have identified a distinct set of tRFs derived from pre-tRNA 3' trailers in the hepatocellular carcinoma cell line Huh7. Among those tRFs, tRF_U3_1, which is a 19-nucleotide-long chr10.tRNA2-Ser(TGA)-derived trailer, was expressed most abundantly in both Huh7 and cancerous liver tissues, being present primarily in the cytoplasm. We show that genetic loss of tRF_U3_1 does not affect cell growth and it is not involved in Ago2-mediated gene silencing. Using La/SSB knockout Huh7 cell lines, we demonstrate that this nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling protein directly binds to the 3' U-tail of tRF_U3_1 and other abundantly expressed trailers and plays a critical role in their stable cytoplasmic accumulation. The pre-tRNA trailer-derived tRFs capable of sequestering the limiting amounts of La/SSB in the cytoplasm rendered cells resistant to various RNA viruses, which usurp La/SSB with RNA chaperone activity for their gene expression. Collectively, our results establish the trailer-derived tRF-La/SSB interface, regulating viral gene expression.

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