Human papillomavirus (HPV) E6/E7 type-specific oncogenes are required for cervical carcinogenesis. Current PCR protocols for genotyping high-risk HPV in cervical screening are not standardized and usually use consensus primers targeting HPV capsid genes, which are often deleted in neoplasia. PCR fragments are detected using specialized equipment and extra steps, including probe hybridization or primer extension. In published papers, analytical sensitivity is typically compared with a different protocol on the same sample set.
A single-tube multiplex PCR containing type-specific primers was developed to target the E6/E7 genes of two low-risk and 19 high-risk genotypes (HPV6, 11 and 16, 18, 26, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 59, 66, 68, 70, 73 and 82) and the resulting short fragments were directly genotyped by high-resolution fluorescence capillary electrophoresis.
The method was validated using long oligonucleotide templates, plasmid clones and 207 clinical samples of DNA from liquid-based cytology, fresh and formalin-fixed specimens and FTA Microcards® imprinted with cut tumor surfaces, swabbed cervical cancers or ejected aspirates from nodal metastases of head and neck carcinomas. Between one and five long oligonucleotide targets per sample were detected without false calls. Each of the 21 genotypes was detected in the clinical sample set with up to five types simultaneously detected in individual specimens. All 101 significant cervical neoplasias (CIN 2 and above), except one adenocarcinoma, contained E6/E7 genes. The resulting genotype distribution accorded with the national pattern with HPV16 and 18 accounting for 69% of tumors. Rare HPV types 70 and 73 were present as the sole genotype in one carcinoma each. One cervical SCC contained DNA from HPV6 and 11 only. Six of twelve oropharyngeal cancer metastases and three neck metastases of unknown origin bore E6/E7 DNA; all but one were HPV16. One neck aspirate contained atypical squames with HPV26.
Analytical sensitivity in dilute plasmid mixes was variable.
A primer-rich PCR readily detects the E6/E7 oncogenes of 21 HPV types in cellular and fixed tissue specimens. The method is straightforward, robust and reproducible and avoids post-PCR enzymatic and hybridization steps while detecting HPV with high clinical sensitivity in significant HPV-related neoplasia regardless of specimen type.