BART miRNAs: an unimaginable force in the development of nasopharyngeal carcinoma

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Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a head and neck cancer that represents a major health burden in Southern China and Southeast Asia. Although the close association of NPC with Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection has been demonstrated, its exact role in the pathogenesis of this malignancy is still unclear. The expression of EBV-encoded microRNAs, especially BART miRNAs, which are encoded from the BamHI-A region of the viral genome, is detected at a high level in NPC. miRNAs are small noncoding mRNAs that can positively regulate the virus to ensure accurate expression of viral genomes and to modify the gene expression of host cells by negative regulation. Accumulating evidence suggests that ebv-mir-BARTs play a critical role in host cell survival, immune escape, cell proliferation, cell apoptosis, and cancer metabolism, promoting the generation of NPC. This review will summarize our current understanding of the nature and function of ebv-mir-BARTs in NPC.

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