Human papillomaviruses infect stratified epithelia and link their productive life cycle to the differentiation state of the host cell. Productive viral replication or amplification is restricted to highly differentiated suprabasal cells and is dependent on the activation of the ATM DNA damage pathway. The ATM pathway has three arms that can act independently of one another. One arm is centered on p53, another on CHK2 and a third on SMC1/NBS1 proteins. A role for CHK2 in HPV genome amplification has been demonstrated but it was unclear what other factors provided important activities. The cohesin protein, SMC1, is necessary for sister chromatid association prior to mitosis. In addition the phosphorylated form of SMC1 plays a critical role together with NBS1 in the ATM DNA damage response. In normal cells, SMC1 becomes phosphorylated in response to radiation, however, in HPV positive cells our studies demonstrate that it is constitutively activated. Furthermore, pSMC1 is found localized in distinct nuclear foci in complexes with γ-H2AX, and CHK2 and bound to HPV DNA. Importantly, knockdown of SMC1 blocks differentiation-dependent genome amplification. pSMC1 forms complexes with the insulator transcription factor CTCF and our studies show that these factors bind to conserved sequence motifs in the L2 late region of HPV 31. Similar motifs are found in most HPV types. Knockdown of CTCF with shRNAs blocks genome amplification and mutation of the CTCF binding motifs in the L2 open reading frame inhibits stable maintenance of viral episomes in undifferentiated cells as well as amplification of genomes upon differentiation. These findings suggest a model in which SMC1 factors are constitutively activated in HPV positive cells and recruited to viral genomes through complex formation with CTCF to facilitate genome amplification. Our findings identify both SMC1 and CTCF as critical regulators of the differentiation-dependent life cycle of high-risk human papillomaviruses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology