Endogenous retroelements (ERs) represent nearly half of the human genome. Considered up
to recent years as “functionless” DNA sequences, they are now known to be involved in important cellular
functions such as stress response and generation of non coding regulatory RNAs. Moreover, an
increasing amount of data supports the idea of ERs as key players in cellular senescence and in different
senescence-related pathogenic cellular processes, including those leading to inflammation, cancer
and major age-related multifactorial diseases. The involvement of ERs in these biological mechanisms can suggest new
therapeutic strategies in neoplasms, inflammatory/autoimmune diseases and in different age-related pathologies, such as
macular degeneration, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and major age-related neurodegenerative disorders. The therapeutic
approaches which can be suggested range from a set of well-known, common drugs that have been shown to modulate
ERs activity, to immune therapy against ER-derived tumor antigens, to more challenging strategies such as those based on
anti-ERs RNA interference.
Keywords: Alu, cancer, age-related diseases, cellular senescence, drugs, inflammation, LINE-1, retrotransposons.
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