Many important functions have been attributed to the high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) E6 and E7 proteins, including binding and degradation of p53 as well as interacting with Rb proteins. In contrast, the physiological roles of the low-risk E6 and E7 proteins remain unclear. Previous studies demonstrated that the high-risk E6 and E7 proteins also play roles in the productive life cycle by facilitating the maintenance of viral episomes (J. T. Thomas, W. G. Hubert, M. N. Ruesch, and L. A. Laimins, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96:8449-8454, 1999). In order to determine whether low-risk E6 or E7 is similarly necessary for the stable maintenance of episomes, HPV type 11 (HPV-11) genomes that contained translation termination mutations in E6 or E7 were constructed. Upon transfection into normal human keratinocytes, genomes in which E6 function was abolished were unable to be maintained episomally. Transfection of genomes containing substitution mutations in amino acids conserved in high- and low-risk HPV types suggested that multiple protein domains are involved in this process. Examination of cells transfected with HPV-11 genomes in which E7 function was inhibited were found to exhibit a more complex phenotype. At the second passage following transfection, mutant genomes were maintained as episomes but at significantly reduced levels than in cells transfected with the wild-type HPV-11 genome. Upon further passage in culture, however, the episomal forms of these E7 mutant genomes quickly disappeared. These findings identify important new functions for the low-risk E6 and E7 proteins in the episomal maintenance of low-risk HPV-11 genomes and suggest that they may act in a manner similar to that observed for the high-risk proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science