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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jan 25;283(4):2286-96. Epub 2007 Nov 27.

The regulatory element in the 3'-untranslated region of human papillomavirus 16 inhibits expression by binding CUG-binding protein 1.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


The 3'-untranslated regions (UTRs) of human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) and bovine papillomavirus 1 (BPV1) contain a negative regulatory element (NRE) that inhibits viral late gene expression. The BPV1 NRE consists of a single 9-nucleotide (nt) U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) base pairing site (herein called a U1 binding site) that via U1 snRNP binding leads to inhibition of the late poly(A) site. The 79-nt HPV16 NRE is far more complicated, consisting of 4 overlapping very weak U1 binding sites followed by a poorly understood GU-rich element (GRE). We undertook a molecular dissection of the HPV16 GRE and identify via UV cross-linking, RNA affinity chromatography, and mass spectrometry that is bound by the CUG-binding protein 1 (CUGBP1). Reporter assays coupled with knocking down CUGBP1 levels by small interfering RNA and Dox-regulated shRNA, demonstrate CUGBP1 is inhibitory in vivo. CUGBP1 is the first GRE-binding protein to have RNA interfering knockdown evidence in support of its role in vivo. Several fine-scale GRE mutations that inactivate GRE activity in vivo and GRE binding to CUGBP1 in vitro are identified. The CUGBP1.GRE complex has no activity on its own but specifically synergizes with weak U1 binding sites to inhibit expression in vivo. No synergy is seen if the U1 binding sites are made weaker by a 1-nt down-mutation or made stronger by a 1-nt up-mutation, underscoring that the GRE operates only on weak sites. Interestingly, inhibition occurs at multiple levels, in particular at the level of poly(A) site activity, nuclear-cytoplasmic export, and translation of the mRNA. Implications for understanding the HPV16 life cycle are discussed.

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