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J Virol. 1999 Jul;73(7):5887-93.

The human papillomavirus type 16 E6 gene alone is sufficient to induce carcinomas in transgenic animals.

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McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


High-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the causative agents of certain human cancers. HPV type 16 (HPV16) is the papillomavirus most frequently associated with cervical cancer in women. The E6 and E7 genes of HPV are expressed in cells derived from these cancers and can transform cells in tissue culture. Animal experiments have demonstrated that E6 and E7 together cause tumors. We showed previously that E6 and E7 together or E7 alone could induce skin tumors in mice when these genes were expressed in the basal epithelia of the skin. In this study, we investigated the role that the E6 gene plays in carcinogenesis. We generated K14E6 transgenic mice, in which the HPV16 E6 gene was directed in its expression by the human keratin 14 promoter (hK14) to the basal layer of the epidermis. We found that E6 induced cellular hyperproliferation and epidermal hyperplasia and caused skin tumors in adult mice. Interestingly, the tumors derived from E6 were mostly malignant, as opposed to the tumors from E7 mice, which were mostly benign. This result leads us to hypothesize that E6 may contribute differently than E7 to HPV-associated carcinogenesis; whereas E7 primarily contributes to the early stages of carcinogenesis that lead to the formation of benign tumors, E6 primarily contributes to the late stages of carcinogenesis that lead to malignancy.

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