Tri-split tRNA is a transfer RNA made from 3 transcripts that provides insight into the evolution of fragmented tRNAs in archaea

Kosuke Fujishima, Junichi Sugahara, Kaoru Kikuta, Reiko Hirano, Asako Sato, Masaru Tomita, Akio Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Transfer RNA (tRNA) is essential for decoding the genome sequence into proteins. In Archaea, previous studies have revealed unique multiple intron-containing tRNAs and tRNAs that are encoded on 2 separate genes, so-called split tRNAs. Here, we discovered 10 fragmented tRNA genes in the complete genome of the hyperthermoacidophilic Archaeon Caldivirga maquilingensis that are individually transcribed and further trans-spliced to generate all of the missing tRNAs encoding glycine, alanine, and glutamate. Notably, the 3 mature tRNAGly's with synonymous codons are created from 1 constitutive 3′ half transcript and 4 alternatively switching transcripts, representing tRNA made from a total of 3 transcripts named a "tri-split tRNA." Expression and nucleotide sequences of 10 split tRNA genes and their joined tRNA products were experimentally verified. The intervening sequences of split tRNA have high identity to tRNA intron sequences located at the same positions in ifntron-containing tRNAs in related Thermoproteales species. This suggests that an evolutionary relationship between intron-containing and split tRNAs exists. Our findings demonstrate the first example of split tRNA genes in a free-living organism and a unique tri-split tRNA gene that provides further insight into the evolution of fragmented tRNAs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2683-2687
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb 24


  • Caldivirga maquilingensis
  • Molecular evolution
  • Rna processing
  • Trans-splicing
  • Trna intron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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