SIGNIFICANCE: Both transfer RNA (tRNA) and cytochrome c are essential molecules for the survival of cells. tRNA decodes mRNA codons into amino-acid-building blocks in protein in all organisms, whereas cytochrome c functions in the electron transport chain that powers ATP synthesis in mitochondrion-containing eukaryotes. Additionally, in vertebrates, cytochrome c that is released from mitochondria is a potent inducer of apoptosis, activating apoptotic proteins (caspases) in the cytoplasm to dismantle cells. A better understanding of both tRNA and cytochrome c is essential for an insight into the regulation of cell life and death.
RECENT ADVANCES: A recent study showed that the mitochondrion-released cytochrome c can be removed from the cell-death pathway by tRNA molecules. The direct binding of cytochrome c by tRNA provides a mechanism for tRNA to regulate cell death, beyond its role in gene expression.
CRITICAL ISSUES: The nature of the tRNA-cytochrome c binding interaction remains unknown. The questions of how this interaction affects tRNA function, cellular metabolism, and apoptotic sensitivity are unanswered.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS: Investigations into the critical issues raised above will improve the understanding of tRNA in the fundamental processes of cell death and metabolism. Such knowledge will inform therapies in cell death-related diseases.
Recommended CitationHou, Ya-Ming and Yang, Xiaolu, "Regulation of cell death by transfer RNA." (2013). Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 82.