Introduction: The anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) is a ubiquitin ligase involved in regulation of the cell cycle through ubiquitination-dependent substrate proteolysis. Many viral proteins have been shown to interact with the APC/C, derailing cell cycle progression in order to facilitate their own replication. Induction of G(2)/M arrest by viral APC/C inhibition can lead to apoptotic cell death. Some viral proteins cause cytotoxicity specifically in tumour cells, providing evidence that targeting the APC/C could be exploited to selectively eliminate cancer cells.
Areas covered: In this review, we provide a summary of studies from viral APC/C interactions over the last decade, as well as recent discoveries identifying the APC/C as a promising target in the context of cancer therapy.
Expert opinion: Current therapeutic strategies inducing mitotic arrest rely on activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) for their function. Many cancer cells have a weakened SAC and escape apoptosis through mitotic slippage. Recent evidence has demonstrated that targeting the APC/C, particularly the co-activator Cdc20, might be a better alternative. Tumour cells display greater dependency on APC/C function than normal cells and oncogenic transformation can lead to increased mitotic stress, rendering cancer cells more vulnerable to APC/C inhibition.