Transfer RNAs as dynamic and critical regulators of cancer progression.
Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) have been historically viewed as non-dynamic adaptors that decode the genetic code into proteins. Recent work has uncovered dynamic regulatory roles for these fascinating molecules. Advances in tRNA detection methods have revealed that specific tRNAs can become modulated upon DNA copy number and chromatin alterations and can also be perturbed by oncogenic signalling and transcriptional regulators in cancer cells or the tumour microenvironment. Such alterations in the levels of specific tRNAs have been shown to causally impact cancer progression, including metastasis. Moreover, sequencing methods have identified tRNA-derived small RNAs that influence various aspects of cancer progression, such as cell proliferation and invasion, and could serve as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers or putative therapeutic targets in various cancers. Finally, there is accumulating evidence, including from genetic models, that specific tRNA synthetases - the enzymes responsible for charging tRNAs with amino acids - can either promote or suppress tumour formation. In this Review, we provide an overview of how deregulation of tRNAs influences cancer formation and progression.
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