Small, noncoding RNAs are short untranslated RNA molecules, some of which have been associated with cancer development. Recently we showed that a class of small RNAs generated during the maturation process of tRNAs (tRNA-derived small RNAs, hereafter "tsRNAs") is dysregulated in cancer. Specifically, we uncovered tsRNA signatures in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lung cancer and demonstrated that the ts-4521/3676 cluster (now called "ts-101" and "ts-53," respectively), ts-46, and ts-47 are down-regulated in these malignancies. Furthermore, we showed that tsRNAs are similar to Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and demonstrated that ts-101 and ts-53 can associate with PiwiL2, a protein involved in the silencing of transposons. In this study, we extended our investigation on tsRNA signatures to samples collected from patients with colon, breast, or ovarian cancer and cell lines harboring specific oncogenic mutations and representing different stages of cancer progression. We detected tsRNA signatures in all patient samples and determined that tsRNA expression is altered upon oncogene activation and during cancer staging. In addition, we generated a knocked-out cell model for ts-101 and ts-46 in HEK-293 cells and found significant differences in gene-expression patterns, with activation of genes involved in cell survival and down-regulation of genes involved in apoptosis and chromatin structure. Finally, we overexpressed ts-46 and ts-47 in two lung cancer cell lines and performed a clonogenic assay to examine their role in cell proliferation. We observed a strong inhibition of colony formation in cells overexpressing these tsRNAs compared with untreated cells, confirming that tsRNAs affect cell growth and survival.
Keywords: ncRNA; tDR; tRF; tRNA fragments; tsRNA.