HPV-Related Cervical Cancer and Extracellular Vesicles

Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Oct 25;12(11):2584. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12112584.


Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in females worldwide. Infection with a human papillomavirus is crucial to the etiopathogenesis of cervical cancer. The natural trajectory of HPV infection comprises HPV acquisition, HPV persistence versus clearance, and progression to precancer and invasive cancer. The majority of HPV infections are cleared and controlled by the immune system within 2 years, but some infections may become quiescent or undetectable. The persistence of high-risk HPV infection for a longer period of time enhances the risk of malignant transformation of infected cells; however, the mechanisms responsible for the persistence of infection are not yet well-understood. It is estimated that 10-15% of infections do persist, and the local microenvironment is now recognized as an important cofactor promoting infection maintenance. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small membrane vesicles derived from both normal cells and cancer cells. EVs contain various proteins, such as cytoskeletal proteins, adhesion molecules, heat shock proteins, major histocompatibility complex, and membrane fusion proteins. EVs derived from HPV-infected cells also contain viral proteins and nucleic acids. These biologically active molecules are transferred via EVs to target cells, constituting a kind of cell-to-cell communication. The viral components incorporated into EVs are transmitted independently of the production of infectious virions. This mode of transfer makes EVs a perfect vector for viruses and their components. EVs participate in both physiological and pathological conditions; they have also been identified as one of the mediators involved in cancer metastasis. This review discusses the potential role of EVs in remodeling the cervical cancer microenvironment which may be crucial to tumor development and the acquisition of metastatic potential. EVs are promising as potential biomarkers in cervical cancer.

Keywords: HPV infection; cervical cancer; extracellular vesicles (EVs).

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

This research received no external funding.