Human endogenous retrovirus k and cancer: innocent bystander or tumorigenic accomplice?
Downey, Ronan F.
Sullivan, Francis J.
Giles, Francis J.
Glynn, Sharon A.
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Downey, Ronan F. Sullivan, Francis J.; Wang-Johanning, Feng; Ambs, Stefan; Giles, Francis J.; Glynn, Sharon A. (2014). Human endogenous retrovirus k and cancer: innocent bystander or tumorigenic accomplice?. International Journal of Cancer 137 (6), 1249-1257
Harbored as relics of ancient germline infections, human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) now constitute up to 8% of our genome. A proportion of this sequence has been co-opted for molecular and cellular processes, beneficial to human physiology, such as the fusogenic activity of the envelope protein, a vital component of placentogenesis. However, the discovery of high levels of HERV-K mRNA and protein and even virions in a wide array of cancers has revealed that HERV-K may be playing a more sinister rolea role as an etiological agent in cancer itself. Whether the presence of this retroviral material is simply an epiphenomenon, or an actual causative factor, is a hotly debated topic. This review will summarize the current state of knowledge regarding HERV-K and cancer and attempt to outline the potential mechanisms by which HERV-K could be involved in the onset and promotion of carcinogenesis.
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