Ribosomal proteins (RPs), the essential components of the ribosome, are a family of RNA-binding proteins, which play prime roles in ribosome biogenesis and protein translation. Recent studies revealed that RPs have additional extra-ribosomal functions, independent of protein biosynthesis, in regulation of diverse cellular processes. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of how RPs regulate apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, cell proliferation, neoplastic transformation, cell migration and invasion, and tumorigenesis through both MDM2/p53-dependent and p53-independent mechanisms. We also discuss the roles of RPs in the maintenance of genome integrity via modulating DNA damage response and repair. We further discuss mutations or deletions at the somatic or germline levels of some RPs in human cancers as well as in patients of Diamond-Blackfan anemia and 5q- syndrome with high susceptibility to cancer development. Moreover, we discuss the potential clinical application, based upon abnormal levels of RPs, in biomarker development for early diagnosis and/or prognosis of certain human cancers. Finally, we discuss the pressing issues in the field as future perspectives for better understanding the roles of RPs in human cancers to eventually benefit human health.
Keywords: MDM2; genomic integrity; p53; ribosomal protein; ribosomal stress; tumorigenesis.