Dimerization confers increased stability to nucleases in 5' halves from glycine and glutamic acid tRNAs.Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 09 28; 46(17):9081-9093.NA
We have previously shown that 5' halves from tRNAGlyGCC and tRNAGluCUC are the most enriched small RNAs in the extracellular space of human cell lines, and especially in the non-vesicular fraction. Extracellular RNAs are believed to require protection by either encapsulation in vesicles or ribonucleoprotein complex formation. However, deproteinization of non-vesicular tRNA halves does not affect their retention in size-exclusion chromatography. Thus, we considered alternative explanations for their extracellular stability. In-silico analysis of the sequence of these tRNA-derived fragments showed that tRNAGly 5' halves can form homodimers or heterodimers with tRNAGlu 5' halves. This capacity is virtually unique to glycine tRNAs. By analyzing synthetic oligonucleotides by size exclusion chromatography, we provide evidence that dimerization is possible in vitro. tRNA halves with single point substitutions preventing dimerization are degraded faster both in controlled nuclease digestion assays and after transfection in cells, showing that dimerization can stabilize tRNA halves against the action of cellular nucleases. Finally, we give evidence supporting dimerization of endogenous tRNAGlyGCC 5' halves inside cells. Considering recent reports have shown that 5' tRNA halves from Ala and Cys can form tetramers, our results highlight RNA intermolecular structures as a new layer of complexity in the biology of tRNA-derived fragments.