Currently, seven viruses, namely Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs), Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), have been described to be consistently associated with different types of human cancer. These oncogenic viruses belong to distinct viral families, display diverse cell tropism and cause different malignancies. A key to their pathogenicity is attachment to the host cell and entry in order to replicate and complete their life cycle. Interaction with the host cell during viral entry is characterized by a sequence of events, involving viral envelope and/or capsid molecules as well as cellular entry factors that are critical in target cell recognition, thereby determining cell tropism. Most oncogenic viruses initially attach to cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans, followed by conformational change and transfer of the viral particle to secondary high-affinity cell- and virus-specific receptors. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the host cell surface factors and molecular mechanisms underlying oncogenic virus binding and uptake by their cognate host cell(s) with the aim to provide a concise overview of potential target molecules for prevention and/or treatment of oncogenic virus infection.
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