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Hepatocellular carcinoma: role of hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses proteins in hepatocarcinogenesis


Monica Anzola, Dpto de Z. y Dinámica Celular, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad del País Vasco, Paseo Universidad 6, 01007-Vitoria, Spain. E-mail:


Summary.  Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most important primary hepatic cancer, being a common cancer type worldwide. Many aetiological factors have been related with HCC development, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis viruses and alcohol. Chronic infection with hepatitis B (HBV) and C viruses (HCV) often results in cirrhosis and enhances the probability of developing HCC. The underlying mechanisms that lead to malignant transformation of infected cells, however, remain unclear. HBV is a DNA virus that integrates into the host genome, and this integration is believed, in part, to be carcinogenic. Besides, the virus encodes a 17 kDa protein, HBx, which is known to be a causative agent in the formation of HCC. On the contrary, HCV is a RNA virus that does not integrate into the host genome but likely induces HCC through host protein interactions or via the inflammatory response to the virus. Products encoded in the HCV genome interfere with and disturb intracellular signal transduction. Some HCV proteins, such as the core protein, NS3 and NS5A, have seen to have a regulatory effect on cellular promoters, to interact with a number of cellular proteins, and to be involved in programmed-cell death modulation under certain conditions. The identification of these proteins functions in HCC development and the subsequent development of strategies to inhibit protein–protein interactions may be the first step towards reducing the chronicity and/or of the carcinogenicity of these two viruses.