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Oncogene. 2010 Mar 11;29(10):1405-20. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.517. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

Viral epigenomes in human tumorigenesis.

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Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC), Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), 08907 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


Viruses are associated with 15-20% of human cancers worldwide. In the last century, many studies were directed towards elucidating the molecular mechanisms and genetic alterations by which viruses cause cancer. The importance of epigenetics in the regulation of gene expression has prompted the investigation of virus and host interactions not only at the genetic level but also at the epigenetic level. In this study, we summarize the published epigenetic information relating to the genomes of viruses directly or indirectly associated with the establishment of tumorigenic processes. We also review aspects such as viral replication and latency associated with epigenetic changes and summarize what is known about epigenetic alterations in host genomes and the implications of these for the tumoral process. The advances made in characterizing epigenetic features in cancer-causing viruses have improved our understanding of their functional mechanisms. Knowledge of the epigenetic changes that occur in the genome of these viruses should provide us with markers for following cancer progression, as well as new tools for cancer therapy.

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