tRNA-derived small RNAs: New players in genome protection against retrotransposons

RNA Biol. 2018 Feb 1;15(2):170-175. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2017.1403000. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Previously believed to be mere random degradation products, tRNA-derived small RNAs have been lately connected to a series of functions that include, surprisingly, genome protection against retrotransposons. tRNAs have been known for a long time to be involved in the replication cycle of retroviruses, pararetroviruses and retrotransposons as primers of their reverse transcription. tRNA-derived small RNAs, as functional small RNAs or as mere tRNA degradation products, have emerged as important players in the regulation of genic transcription. Nevertheless, the involvement of functional sRNAs derived from tRNA transcripts in transposon posttranscriptional control is a regulatory layer that remained elusive until now. Here I review the recent discoveries in the field that connect tRNA-derived small RNAs and retrotransposon control.

Keywords: LTR retrotransposons; RNA silencing; RNAi; epigenetics; retrotransposons; tRFs; tRNA halves; tRNAs; transposable elements.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genomic Instability
  • Humans
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry*
  • Retroelements / genetics*


  • RNA, Small Untranslated
  • Retroelements
  • RNA, Transfer

Grant support

Marie Curie IOF ID: PIOF-GA-2012-330069. Swedish research council VR ID: 2016-05410.