Multi-Omics Database Analysis of Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases in Cancer

Genes (Basel). 2020 Nov 22;11(11):1384. doi: 10.3390/genes11111384.


Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are key enzymes in the mRNA translation machinery, yet they possess numerous non-canonical functions developed during the evolution of complex organisms. The aaRSs and aaRS-interacting multi-functional proteins (AIMPs) are continually being implicated in tumorigenesis, but these connections are often limited in scope, focusing on specific aaRSs in distinct cancer subtypes. Here, we analyze publicly available genomic and transcriptomic data on human cytoplasmic and mitochondrial aaRSs across many cancer types. As high-throughput technologies have improved exponentially, large-scale projects have systematically quantified genetic alteration and expression from thousands of cancer patient samples. One such project is the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), which processed over 20,000 primary cancer and matched normal samples from 33 cancer types. The wealth of knowledge provided from this undertaking has streamlined the identification of cancer drivers and suppressors. We examined aaRS expression data produced by the TCGA project and combined this with patient survival data to recognize trends in aaRSs' impact on cancer both molecularly and prognostically. We further compared these trends to an established tumor suppressor and a proto-oncogene. We observed apparent upregulation of many tRNA synthetase genes with aggressive cancer types, yet, at the individual gene level, some aaRSs resemble a tumor suppressor while others show similarities to an oncogene. This study provides an unbiased, overarching perspective on the relationship of aaRSs with cancers and identifies certain aaRS family members as promising therapeutic targets or potential leads for developing biological therapy for cancer.

Keywords: disease; gene; prognosis; protein synthesis; transcription; transfer RNA (tRNA); translation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics*
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / metabolism
  • Databases, Protein
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Survival Analysis


  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases