Human tRNA-derived small RNAs in the global regulation of RNA silencing.

Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
RNA (Impact Factor: 4.62). 02/2010; 16(4):673-95. DOI: 10.1261/rna.2000810
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Competition between mammalian RNAi-related gene silencing pathways is well documented. It is therefore important to identify all classes of small RNAs to determine their relationship with RNAi and how they affect each other functionally. Here, we identify two types of 5'-phosphate, 3'-hydroxylated human tRNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs). tsRNAs differ from microRNAs in being essentially restricted to the cytoplasm and in associating with Argonaute proteins, but not MOV10. The first type belongs to a previously predicted Dicer-dependent class of small RNAs that we find can modestly down-regulate target genes in trans. The 5' end of type II tsRNA was generated by RNaseZ cleavage downstream from a tRNA gene, while the 3' end resulted from transcription termination by RNA polymerase III. Consistent with their preferential association with the nonslicing Argonautes 3 and 4, canonical gene silencing activity was not observed for type II tsRNAs. The addition, however, of an oligonucleotide that was sense to the reporter gene, but antisense to an overexpressed version of the type II tsRNA, triggered robust, >80% gene silencing. This correlated with the redirection of the thus reconstituted fully duplexed double-stranded RNA into Argonaute 2, whereas Argonautes 3 and 4 were skewed toward less structured small RNAs, particularly single-strand RNAs. We observed that the modulation of tsRNA levels had minor effects on the abundance of microRNAs, but more pronounced changes in the silencing activities of both microRNAs and siRNAs. These findings support that tsRNAs are involved in the global control of small RNA silencing through differential Argonaute association, suggesting that small RNA-mediated gene regulation may be even more finely regulated than previously realized.