APOBEC3 genes: retroviral restriction factors to cancer drivers

Trends Mol Med. 2015 May;21(5):274-84. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2015.02.007. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


The APOBEC3 cytosine deaminases play key roles in innate immunity through their ability to mutagenize viral DNA and restrict viral replication. Recent advances in cancer genomics, together with biochemical characterization of the APOBEC3 enzymes, have now implicated at least two family members in somatic mutagenesis during tumor development. We review the evidence linking these enzymes to carcinogenesis and highlight key questions, including the potential mechanisms that misdirect APOBEC3 activity to the host genome, the links to viral infection, and the association between a common APOBEC3 polymorphism and cancer risk.

Keywords: APOBEC; cancer; mutagenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / immunology
  • Cytosine Deaminase / genetics*
  • Cytosine Deaminase / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Mutagenesis / genetics
  • Mutagenesis / immunology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Retroviridae / genetics*
  • Retroviridae / immunology
  • Risk
  • Virus Replication / genetics
  • Virus Replication / immunology


  • Cytosine Deaminase