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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

tRNA-derived small RNAs target transposable element transcripts

Martinez, German; Choudury, Sarah G.; Slotkin, R. Keith


tRNA-derived RNA fragments (tRFs) are 18-26 nucleotide small RNAs that are not random degradation products, but are rather specifically cleaved from mature tRNA transcripts. Abundant in stressed or viral-infected cells, the function and potential targets of tRFs are not known. We identified that in the unstressed wild-type male gamete containing pollen of flowering plants, and analogous reproductive structure in non-flowering plant species, tRFs accumulate to high levels. In the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana, tRFs are processed by Dicer-like 1 and incorporated into Argonaute1 (AGO1), akin to a microRNA. We utilized the fact that many plant small RNAs direct cleavage of their target transcripts to demonstrate that the tRF-AGO1 complex acts to specifically target and cleave endogenous transposable element (TE) mRNAs produced from transcriptionally active TEs. The data presented here demonstrate that tRFs are bona-fide regulatory microRNA-like small RNAs involved in the regulation of genome stability through the targeting of TE transcripts.


angiosperms; arabidopsis; dna transposable elements; germ cells

Published in

Nucleic Acids Research
2017, volume: 45, number: 9, pages: 5142-5152
Publisher: Oxford University Press ({OUP})

Authors' information

Martinez Arias, German (Martinez-Arias, Germán)
Ohio State University
Martinez Arias, German (Martinez-Arias, Germán)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Biology
Choudury, Sarah G.
Ohio State University
Slotkin, R. Keith
Ohio State University

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

UKÄ Subject classification

Genetics and Breeding

Publication Identifiers


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