A tRNA-derived fragment competes with mRNA for ribosome binding and regulates translation during stress

<p>Posttranscriptional processing of RNA molecules is a common strategy to enlarge the structural and functional repertoire of RNomes observed in all 3 domains of life. Fragmentation of RNA molecules of basically all functional classes has been reported to yield smaller non-protein coding RNAs (ncRNAs) that typically possess different roles compared with their parental transcripts. Here we show that a valine tRNA-derived fragment (Val-tRF) that is produced under certain stress conditions in the halophilic archaeon <i>Haloferax volcanii</i> is capable of binding to the small ribosomal subunit. As a consequence of Val-tRF binding mRNA is displaced from the initiation complex which results in global translation attenuation <i>in vivo</i> and <i>in vitro</i>. The fact that the archaeal Val-tRF also inhibits eukaryal as well as bacterial protein biosynthesis implies a functionally conserved mode of action. While tRFs and tRNA halves have been amply identified in recent RNA-seq project, Val-tRF described herein represents one of the first functionally characterized tRNA processing products to date.</p>