Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and lymphotoxin alpha (LTα) are two related cytokines from the TNF superfamily, yet they mediate their functions in soluble and membrane-bound forms via overlapping, as well as distinct, molecular pathways. Their genes are encoded within the major histocompatibility complex class III cluster in close proximity to each other. TNF is involved in host defense, maintenance of lymphoid tissues, regulation of cell death and survival, and antiviral and antibacterial responses. LTα, known for some time as TNFβ, has pleiotropic functions including control of lymphoid tissue development and homeostasis cross talk between lymphocytes and their environment, as well as lymphoid tissue neogenesis with formation of lymphoid follicles outside the lymph nodes. Along with their homeostatic functions, deregulation of these two cytokines may be associated with initiation and progression of chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, and tumorigenesis. In this review, we summarize the current state of knowledge concerning TNF/LTα functions in tumor promotion and suppression, with the focus on the recently uncovered significance of host-microbiota interplay in cancer development that may explain some earlier controversial results.
Keywords: LTβR; TNFR2; cancer; lymphotoxin alpha; microbiota; mouse models; tumor necrosis factor.