Background: Research in the field of antitumor chemotherapeutics pursues a key issue, drug
selectivity for cancer cells. In the last 20 years, a group of proteins has attracted scientific interest as
cancer chemotherapeutics due to their ability to specifically kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells
undamaged. One of these proteins is apoptin.
Methods: In this study, the recent available literature regarding cell death mechanisms induced by
apoptin has been reviewed. Delivering this drug to tumor cells is a challenge because it spontaneously
forms soluble non-covalent aggregates. This led us to include in this review the different approaches for
obtaining the maximum efficiency of apoptin entry to cancer cells.
Results: This review provides an up-to-date summary of the mechanisms by which apoptin induces selective
apoptosis in tumor cells while leaving normal cells undamaged. It highlights the relationship between
the apoptosis mechanism induced by this protein and its functional motifs. Apoptin has been described
as an intrinsically disordered protein, which explains its ability to interact with multiple partners
and affect multiple pathways inside the cell. Characterization of the different partners and pathways induced
by apoptin has begun to shed light on the molecular basis of apoptin’s tumor-selective cytotoxicity.
Conclusion: The findings confirm the interest in apoptin as a potentially safe antitumor drug. Research
still needed to be conducted to find an effective way to deliver apoptin for use in clinics.