The Art of Viral Oncogenesis: Lessons from Human Papillomavirus and Polyomavirus Transformed Cancers




Zhao, Jiawei

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Viruses account for about 15% of all human cancer. Understanding viral oncogenesis can substantially broaden our general knowledge on the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis. In this dissertation, I focused on two types of DNA oncoviruses, human papillomavirus (HPV) and polyomavirus (HPyV), and identified novel mechanisms by which these two types of viruses cause human cancers. In HPV transformed cancer cells, I identified a novel circular RNA species, circE7, that spans and encodes the HPV E7 oncoprotein. I later demonstrated that circE7 translated E7 protein accounts for a substantial proportion of the E7 protein in a HPV transformed cancer cell line, and whose absence significantly impacts cancer cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. In Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCPyV) transformed MCC cancer cells, I identified the activation of non-canonical NF-κB pathway activation by the MCPyV small T (ST) oncoprotein. I further demonstrated that the ectopically activated non-canonical NF-κB pathway is required for cell growth in low serum. The inhibition of non-canonical NF-κB signaling by a small peptide inhibitor also resulted in impaired cell growth in vitro and in vivo due to ER stress mediated apoptosis, suggesting a novel therapeutic intervention strategy for viral positive MCC (VP-CC) patients.

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