Emerging roles of tRNA in cancer

Cancer Lett. 2023 Jun 1;563:216170. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2023.216170. Epub 2023 Apr 11.


Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) play pivotal roles in the transmission of genetic information, and abnormality of tRNAs directly leads to translation disorders and causes diseases, including cancer. The complex modifications enable tRNA to execute its delicate biological function. Alteration of appropriate modifications may affect the stability of tRNA, impair its ability to carry amino acids, and disrupt the pairing between anticodons and codons. Studies confirmed that dysregulation of tRNA modifications plays an important role in carcinogenesis. Furthermore, when the stability of tRNA is impaired, tRNAs are cleaved into small tRNA fragments (tRFs) by specific RNases. Though tRFs have been found to play vital regulatory roles in tumorigenesis, its formation process is far from clear. Understanding improper tRNA modifications and abnormal formation of tRFs in cancer is conducive to uncovering the role of metabolic process of tRNA under pathological conditions, which may open up new avenues for cancer prevention and treatment.

Keywords: Non-coding RNA; Tumor; tRF; tRNA modification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids
  • Anticodon
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer* / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer* / metabolism


  • RNA, Transfer
  • Anticodon
  • Amino Acids