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Virology. 2004 Feb 20;319(2):315-23.

Genomic diversity of human papillomavirus-16, 18, 31, and 35 isolates in a Mexican population and relationship to European, African, and Native American variants.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Cervical cancer, mainly caused by infection with human papillomaviruses (HPVs), is a major public health problem in Mexico. During a study of the prevalence of HPV types in northeastern Mexico, we identified, as expected from worldwide comparisons, HPV-16, 18, 31, and 35 as highly prevalent. It is well known that the genomes of HPV types differ geographically because of evolution linked to ethnic groups separated in prehistoric times. As HPV intra-type variation results in pathogenic differences, we analyzed genomic sequences of Mexican variants of these four HPV types. Among 112 HPV-16 samples, 14 contained European and 98 American Indian (AA) variants. This ratio is unexpected as people of European ethnicity predominate in this part of Mexico. Among 15 HPV-18 samples, 13 contained European and 2 African variants, the latter possibly due to migration of Africans to the Caribbean coast of Mexico. We constructed phylogenetic trees of HPV-31 and 35 variants, which have never been studied. Forty-six HPV-31 isolates from Mexico, Europe, Africa, and the United States (US) contained a total of 35 nucleotide exchanges in a 428-bp segment, with maximal distances between any two variants of 16 bp (3.7%), similar to those between HPV-16 variants. The HPV-31 variants formed two branches, one apparently the European, the other one an African branch. The European branch contained 13 of 29 Mexican isolates, the African branch 16 Mexican isolates. These may represent the HPV-31 variants of American Indians, as a 55% prevalence of African variants in Mexico seems incomprehensible. Twenty-seven HPV-35 samples from Mexico, Europe, Africa, and the US contained 11 mutations in a 893-bp segment with maximal distances between any two variants of only 5 mutations (0.6%), including a characteristic 16-bp insertion/deletion. These HPV-35 variants formed several phylogenetic clusters rather than two- or three-branched trees as HPV-16, 18, and 31. An HPV-35 variant typical for American Indians was not identifiable. Our research suggests type specific patterns of evolution and spread of HPV-16, 18, 31, and 35 both before and after the worldwide migrations of the last four centuries. The high prevalence of highly carcinogenic HPV-16 AA variants, and the extensive diversity of HPV-18, 31, and 35 variants with unknown pathogenic properties raise the possibility that HPV intra-type variation contributes to the high cervical cancer burden in Mexico.

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