Conformational change in transfer RNA is an early indicator of acute cellular damage

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Oct;25(10):2316-26. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2013091001. Epub 2014 May 15.


Tissue damage by oxidative stress is a key pathogenic mechanism in various diseases, including AKI and CKD. Thus, early detection of oxidative tissue damage is important. Using a tRNA-specific modified nucleoside 1-methyladenosine (m1A) antibody, we show that oxidative stress induces a direct conformational change in tRNA structure that promotes subsequent tRNA fragmentation and occurs much earlier than DNA damage. In various models of tissue damage (ischemic reperfusion, toxic injury, and irradiation), the levels of circulating tRNA derivatives increased rapidly. In humans, the levels of circulating tRNA derivatives also increased under conditions of acute renal ischemia, even before levels of other known tissue damage markers increased. Notably, the level of circulating free m1A correlated with mortality in the general population (n=1033) over a mean follow-up of 6.7 years. Compared with healthy controls, patients with CKD had higher levels of circulating free m1A, which were reduced by treatment with pitavastatin (2 mg/d; n=29). Therefore, tRNA damage reflects early oxidative stress damage, and detection of tRNA damage may be a useful tool for identifying organ damage and forming a clinical prognosis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis
  • Acute Kidney Injury / metabolism
  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine / immunology
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Damage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer / immunology
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / mortality


  • 1-methyladenosine
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Adenosine