Transfer- or "transmission"- RNA fragments? The roles of tsRNAs in the reproductive system

Mol Hum Reprod. 2021 Apr 9;gaab026. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaab026. Online ahead of print.


Transfer-RNAs (tRNAs) help ribosomes decode mRNAs and synthesize proteins; however, tRNA fragments produced under certain conditions, known as tRNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs), have been found to play important roles in pathophysiological processes. In the reproductive system, tsRNAs are abundant in gametes and embryos and at the maternal-fetal interface, as well as in microvesicles like epididymosomes, seminal plasma exosomes, and syncytiotrophoblast-derived extracellular vesicles. tsRNAs can affect gamete cell maturation, zygote activation, and early embryonic development. tsRNAs can transmit epigenetic information to later generations. In particular, exposure to environmental factors such as nutrition, isoproterenol, and poly (I:C) may allow tsRNAs to transfer information to the gametes or placenta to alter offspring phenotype. The underlying mechanisms of tsRNAs action include transposon silencing, translation regulation, and target mRNA degradation. Herein, we review the currently reported tsRNAs in the reproductive system, their validated functions, and potential roles. A better understanding of this field may help to provide useful recommendations or develop strategies to increase fertility and conception of healthy babies.

Keywords: biomarker; epigenetic inheritance; reproductive system; transgenerational diseases; tsRNA.