Human oncoviruses and p53 tumor suppressor pathway deregulation at the origin of human cancers

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Viral oncogenesis is a multistep process largely depending on the complex interplay between viruses and host factors. The oncoviruses are capable of subverting the cell signaling machinery and metabolic pathways and exploit them for infection, replication, and persistence. Several viral oncoproteins are able to functionally inactivate the tumor suppressor p53, causing deregulated expression of many genes orchestrated by p53, such as those involved in apoptosis, DNA stability, and cell proliferation. The Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) BZLF1, the high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) E6, and the hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5 proteins have shown to directly bind to and degrade p53. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) HBx and the human T cell lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1) Tax proteins inhibit p53 activity through the modulation of p300/CBP nuclear factors, while the Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus (HHV8) LANA, vIRF-1 and vIRF-3 proteins have been shown to destabilize the oncosuppressor, causing a decrease in its levels in the infected cells. The large T antigen of the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) does not bind to p53 but significantly reduces p53-dependent transcription. This review describes the main molecular mechanisms involved in the interaction between viral oncoproteins and p53-related pathways as well as in the development of therapeutic strategies targeting such interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number213
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2018


  • EBV
  • HBV
  • HCV
  • HHV-8
  • HPV
  • MCPyV
  • Oncoviruses
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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