Viral epigenomes in human tumorigenesis

Oncogene. 2010 Mar 11;29(10):1405-20. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.517. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Viruses are associated with 15-20% of human cancers worldwide. In the last century, many studies were directed towards elucidating the molecular mechanisms and genetic alterations by which viruses cause cancer. The importance of epigenetics in the regulation of gene expression has prompted the investigation of virus and host interactions not only at the genetic level but also at the epigenetic level. In this study, we summarize the published epigenetic information relating to the genomes of viruses directly or indirectly associated with the establishment of tumorigenic processes. We also review aspects such as viral replication and latency associated with epigenetic changes and summarize what is known about epigenetic alterations in host genomes and the implications of these for the tumoral process. The advances made in characterizing epigenetic features in cancer-causing viruses have improved our understanding of their functional mechanisms. Knowledge of the epigenetic changes that occur in the genome of these viruses should provide us with markers for following cancer progression, as well as new tools for cancer therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins / physiology*
  • Virus Diseases / genetics*
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Viruses / genetics
  • Viruses / metabolism*


  • Histones
  • Viral Proteins