The tumorigenic mechanism for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is not clear, although chronic inflammation is implicated. Here, we identified an inflammatory cytokine–regulated transfer RNA–derived (tRNA-derived) fragment, tRF-21-VBY9PYKHD (tRF-21), as a tumor suppressor in PDAC progression. We found that the biogenesis of tRF-21 could be inhibited by leukemia inhibitory factor and IL-6 via the splicing factor SRSF5. Reduced tRF-21 promoted AKT2/1-mediated heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein L (hnRNP L) phosphorylation, enhancing hnRNP L to interact with dead-box helicase 17 (DDX17) to form an alternative splicing complex. The provoked hnRNP L-DDX17 activity preferentially spliced Caspase 9 and mH2A1 pre-mRNAs to form Caspase 9b and mH2A1.2, promoting PDAC cell malignant phenotypes. The tRF-21 levels were significantly lower in PDACs than in normal tissues, and patients with low tRF-21 levels had a poor prognosis. Treatment of mouse PDAC xenografts or patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) with tRF-21 mimics repressed tumor growth and metastasis. These results demonstrate that tRF-21 has a tumor-suppressive effect and is a potential therapeutic agent for PDAC.


Ling Pan, Xudong Huang, Ze-Xian Liu, Ying Ye, Rui Li, Jialiang Zhang, Guandi Wu, Ruihong Bai, Lisha Zhuang, Lusheng Wei, Mei Li, Yanfen Zheng, Jiachun Su, Junge Deng, Shuang Deng, Lingxing Zeng, Shaoping Zhang, Chen Wu, Xu Che, Chengfeng Wang, Rufu Chen, Dongxin Lin, Jian Zheng


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