Viruses as key modulators of the TGF-β pathway; a double-edged sword involved in cancer

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Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling pathway is a key network in cell signaling that controls vital processes such as proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and migration, thus acting as a double-edged sword in normal development and diseases, in particular organ fibrosis, vascular disorders, and cancer. Early in tumorigenesis, the pathway exerts anti-tumor effects through suppressing cell cycle and inducing apoptosis, while during late stages, it functions as a tumor promoter by enhancing tumor invasiveness and metastasis. This signaling pathway can be perturbed by environmental and genetic factors such as microbial interference and mutation, respectively. In this way, the present review describes the modulation of the TGF-β pathway by oncogenic human viral pathogens and other viruses. The main mechanisms by which viruses interferes with TGF-β signaling seems to be through (1) the alteration of either TGF-β protein expression or activation, (2) the modulation of the TGF-β receptors or SMADs factors (by interfering with their levels and functions), (3) the alteration of none-SMAD pathways, and (4) indirect interaction with the pathway by the modulation of transcriptional co-activator/repressor and regulators of the pathway. Given the axial role of this pathway in tumorigenesis, it can be regarded as an attractive target for cancer therapy. Hence, further investigations on this subject may represent molecular targets among either TGF-β signaling molecules or viral factors for the treatment and management of viral infection consequences such as cancer.

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