Persistent infections with certain human papillomaviruses (HPV) such as HPV16 are a necessary risk factor for the development of anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV16 genomes replicate as low-copy-number plasmids in the nucleus of undifferentiated keratinocytes, which requires the viral E1 and E2 replication proteins. The HPV16 E8^E2C (or E8^E2) protein limits genome replication by repressing both viral transcription and the E1/E2-dependent DNA replication. How E8^E2C expression is regulated is not understood. Previous transcript analyses indicated that the spliced E8^E2C RNA is initiated at a promoter located in the E1 region upstream of the E8 gene. Deletion and mutational analyses of the E8 promoter region identify two conserved elements that are required for basal promoter activity in HPV-negative keratinocytes. In contrast, the transcriptional enhancer in the upstream regulatory region of HPV16 does not modulate basal E8 promoter activity. Cotransfection studies indicate that E8^E2C inhibits, whereas E2 weakly activates, the E8 promoter. Interestingly, the cotransfection of E1 and E2 induces the E8 promoter much more strongly than the major early promoter, and this is partially dependent upon binding of E2 to Brd4. Mutation of E8 promoter elements in the context of HPV16 genomes results in an increased genome copy number and elevated levels of viral early and late transcripts. In summary, the promoter responsible for the expression of E8^E2C is both positively and negatively regulated by viral and cellular factors, and this regulatory circuit may be crucial to maintain a low but constant copy number of HPV16 genomes in undifferentiated cells.
IMPORTANCE HPV16 replicates in differentiating epithelia and can cause cancer. How HPV16 maintains its genome in undifferentiated cells at a low but constant level is not well understood but may be relevant for the immunological escape of HPV16 in the basal layers of the infected epithelium. This study demonstrates that the expression of the viral E8^E2C protein, which is a potent inhibitor of viral replication in undifferentiated cells, is driven by a separate promoter. The E8 promoter is both positively and negatively regulated by viral proteins and thus most likely acts as a sensor and modulator of viral copy number.
We investigated the mechanism of how the papillomavirus E2 transcription factor can activate promoters through activator protein (AP)1 binding sites. Using an unbiased approach with an inducible cell line expressing the viral transcription factor E2 and transcriptome analysis, we found that E2 induces the expression of the two AP1 components c-Fos and FosB in a Brd4-dependent manner. In vitro RNA interference confirmed that c-Fos is one of the AP1 members driving the expression of viral oncogenes E6/E7. Mutation analysis and in vivo RNA interference identified an essential role for c-Fos/AP1 and also for the bromodomain protein Brd4 for papillomavirus-induced tumorigenesis. Lastly, chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis demonstrated that E2 binds together with Brd4 to a canonical E2 binding site (E2BS) in the promoter of c-Fos, thus activating c-Fos expression. Thus, we identified a novel way how E2 activates the viral oncogene promoter and show that E2 may act as a viral oncogene by direct activation of c-Fos involved in skin tumorigenesis.
Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) are the etiological agents of cervical cancer and of skin cancer in individuals with the inherited disease epidermodysplasia verruciformis (EV). While the role of the viral oncogenes E6/E7 as drivers of tumorigenesis in cervical cancer has been firmly established, the contribution of the early viral genes in skin cancer is less clear. For EV-associated HPV8 and for the skin cancer model system using cottontail rabbit PV, an important role of the viral E2 protein in tumorigenesis was suggested earlier and regulation of cellular genes by E2 through different mechanisms was demonstrated. We show now that the viral E2 and cellular Brd4 act together to induce the cellular gene c-Fos, which as a member of the AP-1 complex, is involved in the regulation of cellular genes and the viral promoter driving the expression of viral oncogenes. As c-Fos has also been shown to be essential for skin cancer, E2 contributes to tumorigenesis via expression of E6/E7 as well as by increasing c-Fos.
Productive replication of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) occurs only in differentiated keratinocyte cells. In addition to the viral E2 activator protein, HPV16 and related HPV types express transcripts coding for an E8^E2C fusion protein, which limits genome replication in undifferentiated keratinocytes. To address E8^E2C's role in productive replication of HPV16, stable keratinocyte cell lines containing wild-type (wt), E8^E2C knockout (E8−), or E8 KWK mutant (mt) genomes, in which conserved E8 residues were inactivated, were established. Copy numbers of E8− and E8 KWK mt genomes and amounts of early and late viral transcripts were greatly increased compared to those for the wt in undifferentiated keratinocytes, suggesting that HPV16 E8^E2C activities are highly dependent upon the E8 part. Upon differentiation in organotypic cultures, E8 mt genomes displayed higher early viral transcript levels, but no changes in cellular differentiation or virus-induced cellular DNA replication in suprabasal cells were observed. E8 mt genomes were amplified to higher copy numbers and showed increased L1 transcripts compared to wt genomes. Furthermore, the number of cells expressing the viral late protein E4 or L1 or amplifying viral genomes was greatly increased in E8 mt cell lines. In wild-type cells, E8^E2C transcript levels did not decrease by differentiation. Our data indicate that the E8^E2C repressor limits viral transcription and replication throughout the complete life cycle of HPV16.
Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is a rare disease, which is characterised by the growth of papillomavirus-induced papillomas within the respiratory tract. Malignant transformation occurs in less than 1% of the cases.
We report a case of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 11-associated juvenile-onset RRP (JORRP) initially diagnosed at the age of two years. Remarkably high copy numbers of HPV11 DNA and antibody titres targeting the capsid protein L1 were detected in the patient’s serum. The patient developed squamous cell carcinomas in both lungs and extraordinarily an HPV11 DNA-positive papillary endocardial lesion in the left atrium of the heart, which caused thromboembolic events leading to the patient’s death at 19 years old.
We here report a severe case of JORRP hallmarked by HPV11 DNAemia and very high antibody titres directed against the major viral capsid protein L1. Furthermore, the extent of malignant transformation and the discovery of a very rare fatal endocardial lesion highlight the unpredictability of JORRP and the complexity of its clinical management.
JORRP; HPV11; HPV DNAemia
YB-1 is considered a negative prognostic marker for different types of cancer. Increased YB-1 protein levels in tumor cells indicate a worse prognosis. In a preceding study comparing the transcripts of CRPV-induced benign papillomas to mRNA levels of malignant epithelial tumors, we identified YB-1 as a gene that is up-regulated in papillomavirus-associated carcinomas and which causes an invasive phenotype in CRPV-positive cells in vitro. Here we demonstrate that YB-1 is a previously unknown factor required for papillomavirus-induced tumor development in the rabbit animal model system. By infecting the animals with a novel recombinant shRNA-expressing CRPV genome, we show that knock-down of YB-1 dramatically reduces papillomavirus-dependent tumor formation in vivo. Consistent with previous reports showing a nuclear distribution of YB-1 proteins as a hallmark of malignancy, we demonstrate a predominantly nuclear localization of YB-1 in CRPV-immortalized cells. Furthermore we give evidence of YB-1 regulating the CRPV URR and thereby viral gene expression and we identified YB-1 as a novel interactor of the CRPV regulatory protein E2. Taken together we hypothesize that YB-1 is essential for papillomavirus-induced tumor formation probably by regulating viral gene expression including expression of the oncogenes E6 and E7.
Papillomavirus; CRPV; rabbit; in vivo; YB-1; E2; viral transcription; protein-protein interaction
The oncolytic potential of measles vaccine virus (MeV) has been demonstrated in several tumor entities. Here, we investigated the susceptibility of eight sarcoma cell lines to MeV-mediated oncolysis and found five to be susceptible, whereas three proved to be resistant. In the MeV-resistant cell lines, we often observed an inhibition of viral replication along with a strong upregulation of the intracellular virus-sensing molecule RIG-I and of the interferon (IFN)-stimulated gene IFIT1. Not only expression of IFIT1 but also phosphorylation of IFN-stimulated Stat1 took place rapidly and were found to be persistent over time. In contrast, susceptible cell lines showed a much weaker, delayed, or completely missing expression of IFIT1 as well as a delayed or only transient phosphorylation of Stat1, whereas exogenic stimulation with beta interferon (IFN-β) resulted in a comparable profound activation of Stat1 and expression of IFIT1 in all cell lines. Pretreatment with IFN-β rendered three of the susceptible cell lines more resistant to MeV-mediated oncolysis. These data suggest that differences in the innate immune defense often account for different degrees of susceptibility of sarcoma cell lines to MeV-mediated oncolysis. From a therapeutic perspective, we were able to overcome resistance to MeV by increasing the multiplicity of infection (MOI) and by addition of the prodrug 5-fluorocytosine (FC), thereby exploiting the suicide gene function of virotherapeutic vector MeV-SCD armed with the SCD fusion protein, which consists of yeast cytosine deaminase and yeast uracil phosphoribosyltransferase.
Persistent infections with human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16), HPV18, or HPV31 are necessary for the development of cervical cancer, implying that HPVs have evolved immunoevasive mechanisms. Recent global transcriptome analyses indicated that these HPV types downregulate the constitutive expression of interferon (IFN)-stimulated genes (ISGs), but the underlying mechanism is not well understood. Comparative analyses of ISG transcription in keratinocytes with complete HPV16, -18, and -31 genomes revealed that antiviral genes (IFIT1 and MX1), genes involved in IFN signaling (STAT1), proapoptotic genes (TRAIL and XAF1), and pathogen recognition receptors (TLR3, RIG-I, and MDA5) are inhibited to similar extents by HPV16, -18, and -31. The lower expression of pathogen receptors in HPV-positive cells correlated with a greatly impaired induction of IFN-β and also of IFN-λ1, -2, and -3 upon receptor stimulation. IFN-κ is constitutively expressed in normal keratinocytes and is strongly repressed by HPV16, -18, and -31. ISGs downregulated in HPV-positive cells can be reactivated by IFN-κ expression. The viral E6 and E7 oncogenes are sufficient for IFN-κ repression, with E6 being mainly responsible. E6 inhibits IFN-κ transcription independently from binding to PDZ proteins. IFN-κ expression can be activated in only one cell line by E6AP knockdown but can be activated in all tested HPV-positive cells by addition of a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, suggesting that HPVs modulate DNA methylation. Taken together, these results suggest that carcinogenic HPVs target IFN-κ by different pathways in keratinocytes to inhibit both antiviral ISGs and pathogen recognition receptors, which in turn reduces the expression of inducible IFNs.
The persistent infection with high risk human papillomaviruses (hrHPV) is a necessary risk factor for the development of cervical cancer, which is the second most frequent cancer in women worldwide. Cisplatin-based radiotherapy represents the current treatment regimen. However, the results for advanced and recurrent disease are far from optimal. Since almost all cervical cancers contain wild type (wt) p53, which is degraded by the complex of hrHPV E6 and the ubiquitin ligase E6AP, we addressed if the reconstitution of p53 via silencing of E6AP sensitizes cervical cancer cells towards cisplatin treatment. For this we established and characterized two novel cervical cancer cell lines that contain integrated HPV16 genomes. Long-term established HeLa and SiHa cells and the novel cervical cancer cell lines at low passage numbers were treated with different concentrations of cisplatin. Cell viability was measured by the WST-1 assay. In addition, single cisplatin treatment was combined with the silencing of E6AP or p53. The comparison to HeLa and SiHa cells revealed a higher sensitivity of the novel cell lines to cisplatin treatment, which caused p53 accumulation and transcriptional induction of p21. Silencing of E6AP further increased p53 protein levels, but had no effect on cell viability when combined with cisplatin treatment. Interestingly, silencing of p53 had also no effect. We therefore conclude that reactivation of p53 via silencing of E6AP does not increase the sensitivity of cervical cancer cells towards cisplatin treatment.
Cervical cancer; HPV; cisplatin; p53; E6AP; chemoresistance
Persistent infection with a high risk (hr) human papillomavirus (HPV) has been established as the main cause of cervical cancer and high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN3). Because most infections are transient, testing for hrHPV lacks specificity and has a low positive predictive value. It has been suggested that additional parameters like viral load and physical status of the viral genome could improve the effectiveness of HPV-based screening. We investigated the association between HPV16 viral load and physical state with viral persistence or risk of incident CIN3 or worse in a population-based prospective cohort study comprising 8656 women (20-29 years). All participants had two gynecological examinations two years apart and were followed through the nationwide Danish Pathology Data Bank (median follow-up: 12.9 yrs). Seventynine cervical swabs from women with a persistent HPV16 infection were available for analysis. For comparison we selected a random age-matched sample of transiently HPV16 infected women (N=91). Persistently infected women with incident CIN3 or cancer (CIN3+; N=31) were compared to women with normal cytology during follow up (non-progressors; N=39). Quantitative real-time PCR for HPV16E6, E2 and IFNb1 was done to determine the HPV16 viral load and the E2/E6 ratio was used as a surrogate marker for integration. Women with normal cytology who became persistently HPV16 infected had a significantly lower HPV16 load at baseline than women who cleared the infection (median 4.72 copies/cell versus median 20.0 copies/cell, respectively; p=0.0003). There was no difference in viral load at enrollment between women who progressed to CIN3+ and women who stayed cytologically normal (p=0.85). At the second examination viral load tended to be higher in women who progressed, but the difference was not statistically significant (p=0.39). The E2/E6 ratio was shown to be lower in the persistently infected group (p<0.0001) already at the first examination, but no difference between non-progressors and CIN3+ cases was observed at any of the two examinations (p=0.61 and 0.86). Lower viral load and integration of the viral genome are predictive for the persistence of HPV16 DNA, but not for the progression of a persistent HPV16 infection to CIN3+ in women with normal cytology.
Cervical cancer; HPV; viral load; viral integration
Infections with certain human papillomaviruses (HPV), such as type 16 (HPV16), 18, or 31, are a necessary risk factor for the development of cervical cancer. Transcript analyses of several HPV revealed that the viral E2 gene encodes both the E2 regulator protein and the E8∧E2C protein, which differ in their amino termini. Up to now, functional studies have focused on HPV31 E8∧E2C and demonstrated that it is a potent repressor of viral transcription and replication. However, recent analyses of HPV16 genomes have suggested that E8∧E2C proteins may differ in their activities. Therefore, we performed a comparative analysis of E8∧E2C proteins of HPV16, -18, and -31. All E8∧E2C proteins potently inhibited HPV E6/E7 oncogene promoters, and also displayed long-distance transcriptional-repression activities. Furthermore, the expression of all E8∧E2C proteins inhibited the growth of HeLa cells. Expression of E8∧E2C proteins rapidly increased the protein levels of the E6 and E7 targets p53 and p21, consistent with the repression of the endogenous HPV18 E6/E7 promoter. All E8∧E2C proteins induced G1 arrest more efficiently than E2 proteins and activated senescence markers. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the 31E8 domain can be functionally replaced by the KRAB repression domain derived from KOX1. The KRAB-E2C fusion protein possesses long-distance transcriptional-repression activity and inhibits the growth of HeLa cells comparably to E8∧E2C. Taken together, our results suggest that the E8∧E2C proteins of HPV16, -18, and -31 are highly conserved transcriptional repressors that inhibit the growth of HeLa cells by repression of E6/E7 transcription but do not have proapoptotic activities.
Expression of the E6 and E7 oncogenes of high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV) is controlled by cellular transcription factors and by viral E2 and E8∧E2C proteins, which are both derived from the HPV E2 gene. Both proteins bind to and repress the HPV E6/E7 promoter. Promoter inhibition has been suggested to be due to binding site competition with cellular transcription factors and to interactions of different cellular transcription modulators with the different amino termini of E2 and E8∧E2C. We have now identified the cellular chromodomain helicase DNA binding domain 6 protein (CHD6) as a novel interactor with HPV31 E8∧E2C by using yeast two-hybrid screening. Pull-down and coimmunoprecipitation assays indicate that CHD6 interacts with the HPV31 E8∧E2C protein via the E2C domain. This interaction is conserved, as it occurs also with the E8∧E2C proteins expressed by HPV16 and -18 and with the HPV31 E2 protein. Both RNA knockdown experiments and mutational analyses of the E2C domain suggest that binding of CHD6 to E8∧E2C contributes to the transcriptional repression of the HPV E6/E7 oncogene promoter. We provide evidence that CHD6 is also involved in transcriptional repression but not activation by E2. Taken together our results indicate that the E2C domain not only mediates specific DNA binding but also has an additional role in transcriptional repression by recruitment of the CHD6 protein. This suggests that repression of the E6/E7 promoter by E2 and E8∧E2C involves multiple interactions with host cell proteins through different protein domains.
The papillomavirus E2 open reading frame encodes the full-length E2 protein as well as an alternatively spliced product called E8^E2C. E8^E2C has been best studied for the high-risk human papillomaviruses, where it has been shown to regulate viral genome levels and, like the full-length E2 protein, to repress transcription from the viral promoter that directs the expression of the viral E6 and E7 oncogenes. The repression function of E8^E2C is dependent on the 12-amino-acid N-terminal sequence from the E8 open reading frame (ORF). In order to understand the mechanism by which E8^E2C mediates transcriptional repression, we performed an unbiased proteomic analysis from which we identified six high-confidence candidate interacting proteins (HCIPs) for E8^E2C; the top two are NCoR1 and TBLR1. We established an interaction of E8^E2C with an NCoR1/HDAC3 complex and demonstrated that this interaction requires the wild-type E8 open reading frame. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown studies demonstrated the involvement of NCoR1/HDAC3 in the E8^E2C-dependent repression of the viral long control region (LCR) promoter. Additional genetic work confirmed that the papillomavirus E2 and E8^E2C proteins repress transcription through distinct mechanisms.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA genotyping is an essential test to establish efficacy in HPV vaccine clinical trials and HPV prevalence in natural history studies. A number of HPV DNA genotyping methods have been cited in the literature, but the comparability of the outcomes from the different methods has not been well characterized. Clinically, cytology is used to establish possible HPV infection. We evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of HPV multiplex PCR assays compared to those of the testing scheme of the Hybrid Capture II (HCII) assay followed by an HPV PCR/line hybridization assay (HCII-LiPA v2). SurePath residual samples were split into two aliquots. One aliquot was subjected to HCII testing followed by DNA extraction and LiPA v2 genotyping. The second aliquot was shipped to a second laboratory, where DNA was extracted and HPV multiplex PCR testing was performed. Comparisons were evaluated for 15 HPV types common in both assays. A slightly higher proportion of samples tested positive by the HPV multiplex PCR than by the HCII-LiPA v2 assay. The sensitivities of the multiplex PCR assay relative to those of the HCII-LiPA v2 assay for HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18, for example, were 0.806, 0.646, 0.920, and 0.860, respectively; the specificities were 0.986, 0.998, 0.960, and 0.986, respectively. The overall comparability of detection of the 15 HPV types was quite high. Analyses of DNA genotype testing compared to cytology results demonstrated a significant discordance between cytology-negative (normal) and HPV DNA-positive results. This demonstrates the challenges of cytological diagnosis and the possibility that a significant number of HPV-infected cells may appear cytologically normal.
Papillomavirus genomes replicate as nuclear plasmids at a low copy number in undifferentiated keratinocytes. Papillomaviruses encode the E1 and E2 proteins that bind to the origin of replication and are required for the activation of replication. In addition to E2, several papillomaviruses express an E8̂E2C protein, which is generated by alternative splicing and functions as a transcriptional repressor and inhibitor of the E1/E2-dependent replication of the viral origin. Previous analyses suggested that the E8 domain functions as a transferable repression domain. In this report we present evidence that the E8 domain is responsible for the interaction with cellular corepressor molecules such as histone deacetylases, the histone methyltransferase SETDB1, and the TRIM28/KAP-1/TIF1β/KRIP-1 protein. Whereas the interaction with histone deacetylases is involved only in transcriptional repression, the interaction with TRIM28/KAP-1/TIF1β/KRIP-1 contributes to the inhibition of E1/E2-dependent replication. The corepressor TRIM28/KAP-1/TIF1β/KRIP-1 has been described to be part of multicomponent complexes involved in transcriptional regulation and functions as a scaffold protein. Since neither histone deacetylases nor the histone methyltransferase SETDB1 appears to be involved in the inhibition of E1/E2-dependent replication, most likely the modification of non-histone proteins contributes to the replication repression activity of E8̂E2C.
To investigate changes in cellular gene expression associated with malignant progression, we identified differentially expressed genes in a cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) squamous carcinoma model employing New Zealand White rabbits. The technique of suppression subtractive cDNA hybridization was applied to pairs of mRNA isolates from CRPV-induced benign papillomas and carcinomas, with each pair derived from the same individual rabbit. The differential expression of 23 subtracted cDNAs was further confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) with additional biopsies. Eight papilloma-carcinoma pairs examined showed a constant upregulation of the transcripts for the multifunctional adaptor protein 14-3-3 ζ and the Y-box binding transcription factor YB-1, whereas transcripts for m-type calpain 2 and NB thymosin β, which are involved in cell motility and tissue invasion, as well as casein kinase 1 α, chaperonin, and annexin I, were found to be upregulated in the majority of the cases. RNA-RNA in situ hybridization and laser capture microdissection in combination with quantitative RT-PCR analysis verified the deregulated expression of the transcripts in the tumor cells. In contrast, CRPV E7 transcript levels remained rather constant indicating no requirement for a further upregulation of E7 expression following tumor induction. Small interfering RNA-mediated interference with expression of genes encoding YB-1, m-type calpain 2, or NB thymosin β in a CRPV-positive cell line established from New Zealand White rabbit keratinocytes resulted in decreased cell invasion in matrigel chamber assays.
Carcinogenic DNA viruses such as high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV) and Epstein-Barr-Virus (EBV) replicate during persistent infections as low-copy-number plasmids. EBV DNA replication is restricted by host cell replication licensing mechanisms. In contrast, copy number control of HPV genomes is not under cellular control but involves the viral sequence-specific DNA-binding E2 activator and E8∧E2C repressor proteins. Analysis of HPV31 mutant genomes revealed that residues outside of the DNA-binding/dimerization domain of E8∧E2C limit viral DNA replication, indicating that binding site competition or heterodimerization among E2 and E8∧E2C proteins does not contribute to copy number control. Domain swap experiments demonstrated that the amino-terminal 21 amino acids of E8∧E2C represent a novel, transferable DNA replication repressor domain, whose activity requires conserved lysine and tryptophan residues. Furthermore, E8∧E2C(1-21)-GAL4 fusion proteins inhibited the replication of the plasmid origin of replication of EBV, suggesting that E8∧E2C functions as a general replication repressor of extrachromosomal origins. This finding could be important for the development of novel therapies against persistent DNA tumor virus infections.
Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) genomes mutated in the trans-activation domain of the E2 protein, which stimulates both viral DNA replication and transcription, are severely impaired in their ability to induce tumors in New Zealand White rabbits. A number of papillomaviruses encode, in addition to full-length E2, a shortened E2 protein or an E2 protein fused to a short stretch of amino acids derived from the small E8 open reading frame that counteract the activities of E2. We identified and cloned the novel cDNA E9^E2C of CRPV from papillomas of New Zealand White and cottontail rabbits and characterized the functions of the encoded gene product. E9^E2C was shown to be a bona fide repressor of minimal viral promoters, with the E9 domain being essential for this activity, and to repress E1/E2-dependent replication of a CRPV origin construct. In addition, E9^E2C counteracted the transactivation effect of the full-length E2 on minimal promoters containing several E2 binding sites. To investigate the role of E9^E2C in tumorigenesis, we constructed two CRPV genomes mutated in E9^E2C. One, designated CRPV-E9atgmut-pLAII, contained a mutation in the unique start codon in the E9 open reading frame, and the second E9^E2C mutant was constructed by the introduction of a stop codon close to the splice donor site at nucleotide 3714 that additionally prevented the correct splicing of the transcript. When we infected New Zealand White rabbits with these constructs, we surprisingly noted no differences in tumor induction efficiency, viral genome copy number, and viral transcription in comparison to wild-type CRPV.
Infection of domestic rabbits with cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) causes local papillomas which progress to carcinomas in more than 80% of cases. This animal model system therefore allows the identification of molecular mechanisms required for the induction and progression of epithelial tumors. The viral E2 protein stimulates both viral DNA replication and transcription, and these functions can be genetically separated. We introduced the respective mutations into CRPV E2 and found, in line with published data for other papillomavirus E2 proteins, that mutation of the highly conserved amino acid 37 or 73 resulted in replication-competent but transactivation-deficient E2 proteins, whereas E2 proteins with mutations at residue 39 were replication deficient and transactivation competent. The R37A, I73L, and I73A E2 mutants, showing a loss of transactivation function, and the R37K E2 mutant, which is still transactivation competent, were introduced into the whole genome of CRPV, which was then injected into the skin of rabbits. Strikingly, the ability to induce tumors within 6 weeks was abolished by each of the E2 mutations, in contrast to the tumor induction rate (93%) obtained with wild-type CRPV DNA. Two small papillomas induced by mutant E2 I73A CRPV DNA appeared as late as 12 or 24 weeks postinjection, were significantly smaller, and showed no further extension of growth. These data suggest that functionally conserved amino acids in the transactivation domain of E2 are also required for the induction and growth of epithelial tumors in rabbits infected with CRPV.
Infections with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the major risk factor for the development of anogenital cancers. Viral E2 proteins are involved in viral DNA replication and regulation of transcription. Repression of the viral P97 promoter by E2 proteins has been implicated in the modulation of the immortalization capacity and DNA replication properties of high-risk HPVs. Analysis of the cis and trans requirements for repression of the HPV type 31 (HPV31) P97 promoter, however, revealed striking differences between the full-length E2 and the E8̂E2C fusion protein which were due to conserved residues W6 and K7 of the E8 domain. In contrast to E2, E8̂E2C completely inhibited the P97 promoter from a single promoter-distal E2 binding site. This novel long-distance repression activity of the E8 domain also enabled E8̂E2C to inhibit the HPV6a P2 promoter and minimal-promoter constructs containing E2 binding sites. Thus, E8̂E2C may represent the master repressor of viral gene expression during a high-risk HPV infection, and changes in the activity of E8̂E2C might contribute to the progression of high-risk HPV-induced lesions.
The activation of transcription and of DNA replication are, in some cases, mediated by the same proteins. A prime example is the E2 protein of human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which binds ACCN6GGT sequences and activates heterologous promoters from multimerized binding sites. The E2 protein also has functions in replication, where it complexes with the virally encoded origin recognition protein, E1. Much of the information on these activities is based on transient-transfection assays as well as biochemical analyses; however, their importance in the productive life cycle of oncogenic HPVs remains unclear. To determine the contributions of these E2 functions to the HPV life cycle, a genetic analysis was performed by using an organotypic tissue culture model. HPV type 31 (HPV31) genomes that contained mutations in the N terminus of E2 (amino acid 73) were constructed; these mutants retained replication activities but were transactivation defective. Following transfection of normal human keratinocytes, these mutant genomes were established as stable episomes and expressed early viral transcripts at levels similar to those of wild-type HPV31. Upon differentiation in organotypic raft cultures, the induction of late gene expression and amplification of viral DNA were detected in cell lines harboring mutant genomes. Interestingly, only a modest reduction in late gene expression was observed in the mutant lines. We conclude that the transactivation function of E2 is not essential for the viral life cycle of oncogenic HPVs, although it may act to moderately augment late expression. Our studies suggest that the primary positive role of E2 in the viral life cycle is as a replication factor.
The life cycle of the papillomaviruses is closely linked to host cell differentiation, as demonstrated by the fact that amplification of viral DNA and transcription of late genes occur only in the suprabasal cells of a differentiated epithelium. Previous studies examining the pathogenesis of papillomavirus infections have relied on the use of organotypic raft cultures or lesions from patients to examine these differentiation-dependent viral activities. In this study, we used a simple system for epithelial differentiation to study human papillomavirus (HPV) late functions. We demonstrate that the suspension of HPV-infected keratinocytes in semisolid medium containing 1.6% methylcellulose for 24 h was sufficient for the activation of the late promoter, transcription of late genes, and amplification of viral DNA. These activities were shown to be linked to and coincide with cellular differentiation. Expression of the late protein E1∧E4 and amplification of viral DNA were detected in the identical set of cells after suspension in methylcellulose. This technique was also used to analyze the differentiation properties of the cells which expressed the late protein E1∧E4. While induction of the spinous layer markers involucrin and transglutaminase was compatible with late promoter induction, expression of the differentiation-specific keratin-10 was shown not to be required for HPV late functions. Interestingly, while the majority of normal human keratinocytes induced filaggrin expression by 24 h, this marker of the granular layer was induced in a smaller subset of HPV type 31 (HPV-31)-positive cells at this time point. The HPV-31-positive cells which expressed filaggrin did not induce the late protein E1∧E4. Use of the methylcellulose system to induce epithelial differentiation coupled with the ability to perform a genetic analysis of HPV functions by using transfection of cloned viral DNA will facilitate the study of the regulation of the papillomavirus life cycle.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) E2 proteins regulate viral replication by binding to sites in the upstream regulatory region (URR) and by complex formation with the E1 origin recognition protein. In the genital HPV types, the distribution and location of four E2 binding sites (BS1 to BS4) which flank a single E1 binding site are highly conserved. We have examined the roles of these four E2 sites in the viral life cycle of HPV type 31 (HPV31) by using recently developed methods for the biosynthesis of papillomaviruses from transfected DNA templates (M. G. Frattini et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93:3062–3067, 1996). In transient assays, no single site was found to be necessary for replication, and mutation of the early promoter-proximal site (BS4) led to a fourfold increase in replication. Cotransfection of the HPV31 wild-type (HPV-wt) and mutant genomes with expression vectors revealed that E1 stimulated replication of HPV31-wt as well as the HPV31-BS1, -BS2, and -BS3 mutants. In contrast, increased expression of E2 decreased replication of these genomes. Replication of the HPV31-BS4 mutant genome was not further increased by cotransfection of E1 expression vectors but was stimulated by E2 coexpression. In stably transfected normal human keratinocytes, mutation of either BS1, BS3, or BS4 resulted in integration of viral genomes into host chromosomes. In contrast, mutation of BS2 had no effect on stable maintenance of episomes or copy number. Following growth of stably transfected lines in organotypic raft cultures, the differentiation-dependent induction of late gene expression and amplification of viral DNA of the BS2 mutant was found to be similar to that of HPV31-wt. We were unable to find a role for BS2 in our assays for viral functions. We conclude that at least three of the four E2 binding sites in the URRs of HPVs are essential for the productive viral life cycle. The specific arrangement of E2 binding sites within the URR appears to be more important for viral replication than merely the number of sites.