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Histol Histopathol. 2003 Apr;18(2):541-50.

SV40 early region oncoproteins and human cell transformation.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston 02115, USA.


We now understand neoplastic transformation to be the consequence of multiple acquired genetic alterations. The combination of these acquired changes confer the various phenotypes that constitute the clinical features of cancer. Although only rare human cancers derive from a viral etiology, the study of DNA tumor viruses that transform rodent and human cells has led to a greater understanding of the molecular events that program the malignant state. In particular, investigation of the viral oncoproteins specified by the Simian Virus 40 Early Region (SV40 ER) has revealed critical host cell pathways, whose perturbation play an essential role in the experimental transformation of mammalian cells. Recent work has re-investigated the roles of two SV40 ER oncoproteins, the large T antigen (LT) and the small t antigen (ST), in human cell transformation. Co-expression of these two oncoproteins, together with the telomerase catalytic subunit, hTERT, and an oncogenic version of the H-Ras oncoprotein, suffices to transform human cells. LT inactivates two key tumor suppressor pathways by binding to the retinoblastoma protein (pRB) and p53. The ability of ST to transform human cells requires interactions with PP2A, an abundant family of serine-threonine phosphatases. Here we review recent developments in our understanding of how these two viral oncoproteins facilitate human cell transformation.

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