New data has shown that a tsRNA named tRF-Gln-TTG-006 in liver cancer patients’ serum may become a promising blood biomarker to detect liver cancer even in its early stage. Researchers also find that this tsRNA may have its potential biological function during Hepatocellular carcinoma progression. 

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most primary liver cancer, and is also one of the most common and fatal cancers worldwide. Advanced HCC patients expect a significantly low five-year survival rate as well as poor prognosis, therefore early diagnosis is important for effective HCC therapies.

The results, uncovered by researchers from Nanjing University, have been published in Frontiers of Medicine

tRNAs are known as amino acids transfer thus play a vital role in protein synthesis. The newly identified tRF-Gln-TTG-006 is a fragment of its parent tRNA. Unlike its “parent”, tsRNA has been found to be a promising blood biomarker and regulator of disease progression in many cancer types. Serum tsRNA signature in HCC has not been elucidated yet. The current study helps fill this gap, in which discovery of HCC-related tsRNA would be valuable in terms of facilitating HCC detection especially at an early stage.

To elucidate the tsRNA signature of HCC serum, the researchers adapted high-throughput sequencing specialized for tsRNAs which bear multiple modifications. Sequencing uncovered hundreds of new tsRNAs which shed light on a special HCC serum tsRNA profile. The study uses a two-stage validation strategy to screen and finally verified this unique tsRNA which can separate early HCC patients from healthy people. 

When compared with the commonly used biomarker α-fetoprotein (AFP), tRF-Gln-TTG-006 shows a significantly superior diagnostic accuracy for patients with early-stage HCC. A total of 177 HCC patients are included in the study. Current study also shows tRF-Gln-TTG-006 may originate from tumor cells and affect tumor cell growth thus take part in the HCC progression.

“Based on our research, tsRNA is a promising biomarker of early HCC diagnosis and our study can provide more information on the relationship between tsRNAs and the development of liver cancer,” says Yanbo Wang, PhD, department of Biological Science and Technology for Nanjing University.

Featured Image: Position of tRF-Gln-TTG-006 in the cloverleaf secondary structure (left) and its inhabited ability to colony formation of both HCC cell lines (right). Photo: Higher Education Press Limited Company