Oncogenic Transcription Factors: Target Genes


Transcription factors (TFs) are a class of proteins that are essential for the regulation of gene expression and for the control of protein expression in normal physiological conditions. On the other hand, de‐regulated expression of TFs plays a critical role in different diseases, including cancer. An elevated percentage of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes encode TFs. In fact, the majority of oncogenic signalling pathways converge on sets of TFs that ultimately control gene expression patterns, resulting in aggressive phenotype, disease progression and increased resistance to drug therapy. Since the expression and activities of these TFs are tightly regulated, they represent a highly desirable entry point for the development and validation of new therapeutic drugs against cancer.

Key Concepts

  • TFs are essential for controlling gene expression during normal physiological conditions and disease.
  • High proportion of oncogenes and tumour suppressors encode TFs.
  • Hallmarks of cancer, such as control of cell cycle, protection from apoptosis, induction of angiogenesis, proliferation, migration and invasion are controlled by gene expression patterns and signalling pathways that are regulated by TFs.
  • Upregulation of TFs is related to increased resistance to drugs used in cancer treatment.
  • TFs may represent an important target for the treatment of several types of cancers.

Keywords: transcription factors; apoptosis; cancer; oncogene; cell cycle; resistance to therapy

Figure 1. Transcription factor (TF) activation and signalling pathway in cancer. TF activity is triggered by genetic alterations such as point mutations, insertions, deletions, chromosomal translocations and amplifications in the tumour cell's DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). These events lead to transcription factor aberrant expression and abnormal activity and activate an intra‐cellular signalling cascade resulting in the nuclear translocation and transcriptional activation of target genes involved in many aspects of tumorigenesis, inflammation and proliferation survival of cancer cells and resistance to therapeutic agents.


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Paccez, Juliano D, and Zerbini, Luiz F(Sep 2017) Oncogenic Transcription Factors: Target Genes. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0006049.pub2]