Processing by RNase 1 forms tRNA halves and distinct y RNA fragments in the extracellular environment

Gal Nechooshtan*, Dinar Yunusov, Kenneth Chang, Thomas R. Gingeras*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Extracellular RNAs participate in intercellular communication, and are being studied as promising minimally invasive diagnostic markers. Several studies in recent years showed that tRNA halves and distinct Y RNA fragments are abundant in the extracellular space, including in biofluids. While their regulatory and diagnostic potential has gained a substantial amount of attention, the biogenesis of these extracellular RNA fragments remains largely unexplored. Here, we demonstrate that these fragments are produced by RNase 1, a highly active secreted nuclease. We use RNA sequencing to investigate the effect of a null mutation of RNase 1 on the levels of tRNA halves and Y RNA fragments in the extracellular environment of cultured human cells. We complement and extend our RNA sequencing results with northern blots, showing that tRNAs and Y RNAs in the non-vesicular extracellular compartment are released from cells as full-length precursors and are subsequently cleaved to distinct fragments. In support of these results, formation of tRNA halves is recapitulated by recombinant human RNase 1 in our in vitro assay. These findings assign a novel function for RNase 1, and position it as a strong candidate for generation of tRNA halves and Y RNA fragments in biofluids.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8035-8049
Number of pages15
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number14
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


Dive into the research topics of 'Processing by RNase 1 forms tRNA halves and distinct y RNA fragments in the extracellular environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this