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J Virol. 2001 May;75(9):4467-72.

Transcriptional activation of the telomerase hTERT gene by human papillomavirus type 16 E6 oncoprotein.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology and Oncology, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, D.C. 20007, USA.


The E6 and E7 oncogenes of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) are sufficient for the immortalization of human genital keratinocytes in vitro. The products of these viral genes associate with p53 and pRb tumor suppressor proteins, respectively, and interfere with their normal growth-regulatory functions. The HPV-16 E6 protein has also been shown to increase the telomerase enzyme activity in primary epithelial cells by an unknown mechanism. We report here that a study using reverse transcription-PCR and RNase protection assays in transduced primary human foreskin keratinocytes (HFKs) shows that the E6 gene (but not the E7 gene) increases telomerase hTERT gene transcription coordinately with E6-induced telomerase activity. In these same cells, the E6 gene induces a 6.5-fold increase in the activity of a 1,165-bp 5' promoter/regulatory region of the hTERT gene, and this induction is attributable to a minimal 251-bp sequence (-211 to +40). Furthermore, there is a 35-bp region (+5 to +40) within this minimal E6-responsive promoter that is responsible for 60% of E6 activity. Although the minimal hTERT promoter contains Myc-responsive E-box elements and recent studies have suggested a role for Myc protein in hTERT transcriptional control, we found no alterations in the abundance of either c-Myc or c-Mad in E6-transduced HFKs, suggesting that there are other or additional transcription factors critical for regulating hTERT expression.

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