The biology of Ku and its potential oncogenic role in cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Apr;1765(2):223-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2006.01.001. Epub 2006 Jan 25.


Ku is a heterodimeric protein made up of two subunits, Ku70 and Ku80. It was originally identified as an autoantigen recognized by the sera of patients with autoimmune diseases. It is a highly versatile regulatory protein that has been implicated in multiple nuclear processes, e.g., DNA repair, telomere maintenance and apoptosis. Accordingly, Ku is thought to play a crucial role in maintenance of chromosomal integrity and cell survival. Recent reports suggest that there is a positive relationship between Ku and the development of cancer, making Ku an important candidate target for anticancer drug development. Specifically, prior studies suggest that a delicate balance exists in Ku expression, as overexpression of Ku proteins promotes oncogenic phenotypes, including hyperproliferation and resistance to apoptosis; whereas deficient or low expression of Ku leads to genomic instability and tumorigenesis. Such observations through various experimental models indicate that Ku may act as either a tumor suppressor or an oncoprotein. Hence, understanding the link between the various functions of Ku and the development of cancer in different cell systems may help in the development of novel anticancer therapeutic agents that target Ku. These studies may also increase our understanding of how Ku autoantibodies are generated in autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Nuclear / physiology*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ku Autoantigen
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Xrcc6 protein, human
  • Ku Autoantigen