The role of Merkel cell polyomavirus and other human polyomaviruses in emerging hallmarks of cancer
Polyomaviruses are non-enveloped, dsDNA viruses that are common in mammals, including humans. All polyomaviruses encode the large T-antigen and small t-antigen proteins that share conserved functional domains, comprising binding motifs for the tumor suppressors pRb and p53, and for protein phosphatase 2A, respectively. At present, 13 different human polyomaviruses are known, and for some of them their large T-antigen and small t-antigen have been shown to possess oncogenic properties in cell culture and animal models, while similar functions are assumed for the large T- and small t-antigen of other human polyomaviruses. However, so far the Merkel cell polyomavirus seems to be the only human polyomavirus associated with cancer. The large T- and small t-antigen exert their tumorigenic effects through classical hallmarks of cancer: inhibiting tumor suppressors, activating tumor promoters, preventing apoptosis, inducing angiogenesis and stimulating metastasis. This review elaborates on the putative roles of human polyomaviruses in some of the emerging hallmarks of cancer. The reciprocal interactions between human polyomaviruses and the immune system response are discussed, a plausible role of polyomavirus-encoded and polyomavirus-induced microRNA in cancer is described, and the effect of polyomaviruses on energy homeostasis and exosomes is explored. Therapeutic strategies against these emerging hallmarks of cancer are also suggested.