Role of host tRNAs and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in retroviral replication

J Biol Chem. 2019 Apr 5;294(14):5352-5364. doi: 10.1074/jbc.REV118.002957. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


The lifecycle of retroviruses and retrotransposons includes a reverse transcription step, wherein dsDNA is synthesized from genomic RNA for subsequent insertion into the host genome. Retroviruses and retrotransposons commonly appropriate major components of the host cell translational machinery, including cellular tRNAs, which are exploited as reverse transcription primers. Nonpriming functions of tRNAs have also been proposed, such as in HIV-1 virion assembly, and tRNA-derived fragments may also be involved in retrovirus and retrotransposon replication. Moreover, host cellular proteins regulate retroviral replication by binding to tRNAs and thereby affecting various steps in the viral lifecycle. For example, in some cases, tRNA primer selection is facilitated by cognate aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (ARSs), which bind tRNAs and ligate them to their corresponding amino acids, but also have many known nontranslational functions. Multi-omic studies have revealed that ARSs interact with both viral proteins and RNAs and potentially regulate retroviral replication. Here, we review the currently known roles of tRNAs and their derivatives in retroviral and retrotransposon replication and shed light on the roles of tRNA-binding proteins such as ARSs in this process.

Keywords: RNA-binding protein; aminoacyl tRNA synthetase; human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); retrovirus; tRNA fragment (tRF); transfer RNA (tRNA); transposable element.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases* / genetics
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • HIV Infections* / genetics
  • HIV Infections* / metabolism
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Transfer* / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer* / metabolism
  • Virus Assembly / physiology*


  • RNA, Transfer
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases