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Charting new territory: The Plasmodium falciparum tRNA modification landscape

This review addresses the known functions of tRNA modifications in the biology of P. falciparum while highlighting the potential therapeutic opportunities and the value of using P. falciparum as a model organism for addressing several open questions related to the tRNA epitranscriptome.


Abstract

Ribonucleoside modifications comprising the epitranscriptome are present in all organisms and all forms of RNA, including mRNA, rRNA and tRNA, the three major RNA components of the translational machinery. Of these, tRNA is the most heavily modified and the tRNA epitranscriptome has the greatest diversity of modifications. In addition to their roles in tRNA biogenesis, quality control, structure, cleavage, and codon recognition, tRNA modifications have been shown to regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, including humans. However, studies investigating the impact of tRNA modifications on gene expression in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are currently scarce. Current evidence shows that the parasite has a limited capacity for transcriptional control, which points to a heavier reliance on strategies for posttranscriptional regulation such as tRNA epitranscriptome reprogramming. This review addresses the known functions of tRNA modifications in the biology of P. falciparum while highlighting the potential therapeutic opportunities and the value of using P. falciparum as a model organism for addressing several open questions related to the tRNA epitranscriptome.



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Figure. Localization of tRNA within a cell depends on its modification status. a) in vitro experiments with recombinant human exportin-t suggests that modifications on tRNA influence their ability to exit the nucleus. b) In T. brucei, the modification Q leads to the efficient import of tRNA-Tyr into the mitochondria.

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