Partial EMT and associated changes in cellular plasticity in oncovirus-positive samples
Oncoviruses exploit diverse host mechanisms to survive and proliferate. These adaptive strategies overlap with mechanisms employed by malignant cells during their adaptation to dynamic micro-environments and for evasion of immune attack. While the role of individual oncoviruses in mediating cancer progression has been extensively characterized, little is known about the common gene regulatory features of oncovirus-induced cancers. Here, we focus on defining the interplay between several cancer hallmarks, including Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), metabolic alterations, and immune evasion across major oncoviruses by examining publicly available transcriptomics datasets containing both oncovirus-positive and oncovirus-negative samples. We observe that oncovirus-positive samples display varying degrees of EMT and metabolic reprogramming. While the progression of EMT generally associated with an enriched glycolytic metabolic program and suppressed fatty acid oxidation (FAO) and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), partial EMT correlated well with glycolysis. Furthermore, oncovirus-positive samples had higher activity and/or expression levels of immune checkpoint molecules, such as PD-L1, which was associated with a partial EMT program. These analyses thus decode common pathways in oncovirus-positive samples that may be used in pinpointing new therapeutic vulnerabilities for cancer cell plasticity.