Translation of mRNA is an important process that controls cell behavior and gene regulation because proteins are the functional molecules that determine cell types and function. Cancer develops as a result of genetic mutations, which lead to the production of abnormal proteins and the dysregulation of translation, which in turn, leads to aberrant protein synthesis. In addition, the machinery that is involved in protein synthesis plays critical roles in stem cell fate determination. In the current review, recent advances in the understanding of translational control, especially translational initiation in cancer development and stem cell fate control, are described. Therapeutic targets of mRNA translation such as eIF4E, 4EBP, and eIF2, for cancer treatment or stem cell fate regulation are reviewed. Upstream signaling pathways that regulate and affect translation initiation were introduced. It is important to regulate the expression of protein for normal cell behavior and development. mRNA translation initiation is a key step to regulate protein synthesis, therefore, identifying and targeting molecules that are critical for protein synthesis is necessary and beneficial to develop cancer therapeutics and stem cells fate regulation.
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