tRNA-Derived Fragments in Alzheimer's Disease: Implications for New Disease Biomarkers and Neuropathological Mechanisms

Wenzhe Wu, Inhan Lee, Heidi Spratt, Xiang Fang, Xiaoyong Bao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia caused by irreversible neurodegeneration, with the onset mechanisms elusive. tRNA-derived RNA fragments (tRFs), a recently discovered family of small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs), have been found to associate with many human diseases, including infectious, metabolic, and neurological diseases. However, whether tRFs play a role in human AD development is not known. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to explore whether tRFs are involved in human AD. METHODS: Thirty-four postmortem human hippocampus samples were used. The expression of Drosha, Dicer, and angiogenin (ANG), three ribonucleases responsible for the biogenesis of sncRNAs, was determined by qRT-PCR and western blot. The tRFs in the hippocampus was detected by qRT-PCR or northern blot. We also used qRT-PCR to quantify NOP2/Sun RNA methyltransferase 2 (NSun2) and polyadenylation factor I subunit 1 (CLP1), two tRNA modification enzymes. RESULTS: tRFs derived from a subset of tRNAs are significantly altered in the hippocampus of AD patients. The expression change of some tRFs showed age- and disease stage-dependent. ANG is significantly enhanced in AD, suggesting its role in inducing tRFs in AD. The expression of NSun2 in AD patients younger than 65 was significantly decreased. According to a previous report supporting NSun2-mediated tRNA methylation modification making tRNA less susceptible to ANG-mediated cleavage, our results suggested that the decrease in NSun2 may make tRNAs less methylated and subsequently enhanced tRF production from ANG-mediated tRNA cleavage. CONCLUSION: Our studies demonstrated for the first time the involvement of tRFs in human AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-806
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • biomarkers
  • neuropathology
  • small non-coding RNAs
  • tRNA-derived RNA fragments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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