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J Gen Virol. 2001 Jan;82(Pt 1):201-13.

Oestrogen and progesterone increase the levels of apoptosis induced by the human papillomavirus type 16 E2 and E7 proteins.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 infects the genital tract and is generally acknowledged to be a causative agent of cervical cancer. HPV infection alone is not sufficient to induce cervical cancer and other factors such as steroid hormones are thought to play a role in the establishment and/or progression of this disease. The HPV-16 E2 protein is required for virus replication and modulates viral gene expression whereas the HPV-16 E7 protein is required for cell transformation. We and others have shown that both the E2 and E7 proteins can induce apoptotic cell death in HPV-transformed and non-HPV transformed cell lines. Here we show that the steroid hormones oestrogen and progesterone can both increase the levels of E2- and E7-induced apoptosis. The oestrogen metabolite 16 alpha-hydroxyoestrone also increases E2- and E7-induced cell death and the dietary component indole-3-carbinol, which reduces the formation of 16alpha-hydroxyoestrone from oestrogen, blocks the effects of oestrogen. Thus the metabolism of oestrogen to 16 alpha-hydroxyoestrone appears to be required for the effects of this hormone on E2- and E7-induced cell death. We also show that the oestrogen receptor antagonist 3-hydroxytamoxifen blocks the effects of oestrogen on E2- and E7-induced cell death, whereas the anti-progesterone RU486 blocks the effects of both progesterone and oestrogen. We discuss these results in terms of the origin and progression of cervical cancer.

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