tRNA modifications regulate translation during cellular stress

FEBS Lett. 2014 Nov 28;588(23):4287-96. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2014.09.038. Epub 2014 Oct 7.


The regulation of gene expression in response to stress is an essential cellular protection mechanism. Recent advances in tRNA modification analysis and genome-based codon bias analytics have facilitated studies that lead to a novel model for translational control, with translation elongation dynamically regulated during stress responses. Stress-induced increases in specific anticodon wobble bases are required for the optimal translation of stress response transcripts that are significantly biased in the use of degenerate codons keyed to these modified tRNA bases. These findings led us to introduce the notion of tRNA modification tunable transcripts (MoTTs - transcripts whose translation is regulated by tRNA modifications), which are identifiable using genome-wide codon counting algorithms. In support of this general model of translational control of stress response, studies making use of detailed measures of translation, tRNA methyltransferase mutants, and computational and mass spectrometry approaches reveal that stress reprograms tRNA modifications to translationally regulate MoTTs linked to arginine and leucine codons, which helps cells survive insults by damaging agents. These studies highlight how tRNA methyltransferase activities and MoTTs are key components of the cellular stress response.

Keywords: Codon usage; Modified ribonucleoside; Stress response; Transfer RNA; Translation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / metabolism*
  • Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics*


  • RNA, Transfer