The present study employed mass sequencing of small RNA libraries to identify the repertoire of small noncoding RNAs expressed in normal CD4(+) T cells compared to cells transformed with human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), the causative agent of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL). The results revealed distinct patterns of microRNA expression in HTLV-1-infected CD4(+) T-cell lines with respect to their normal counterparts. In addition, a search for virus-encoded microRNAs yielded 2 sequences that originated from the plus strand of the HTLV-1 genome. Several sequences derived from tRNAs were expressed at substantial levels in both uninfected and infected cells. One of the most abundant tRNA fragments (tRF-3019) was derived from the 3' end of tRNA-proline. tRF-3019 exhibited perfect sequence complementarity to the primer binding site of HTLV-1. The results of an in vitro reverse transcriptase assay verified that tRF-3019 was capable of priming HTLV-1 reverse transcriptase. Both tRNA-proline and tRF-3019 were detected in virus particles isolated from HTLV-1-infected cells. These findings suggest that tRF-3019 may play an important role in priming HTLV-1 reverse transcription and could thus represent a novel target to control HTLV-1 infection. Small noncoding RNAs, a growing family of regulatory RNAs that includes microRNAs and tRNA fragments, have recently emerged as key players in many biological processes, including viral infection and cancer. In the present study, we employed mass sequencing to identify the repertoire of small noncoding RNAs in normal T cells compared to T cells transformed with human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), a retrovirus that causes adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. The results revealed a distinct pattern of microRNA expression in HTLV-1-infected cells and a tRNA fragment (tRF-3019) that was packaged into virions and capable of priming HTLV-1 reverse transcription, a key event in the retroviral life cycle. These findings indicate tRF-3019 could represent a novel target for therapies aimed at controlling HTLV-1 infection.
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