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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Feb 15;88(4):1411-5.

Influence of chromosomal integration on glucocorticoid-regulated transcription of growth-stimulating papillomavirus genes E6 and E7 in cervical carcinoma cells.

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Institut für Virusforschung/ATV, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany.


In most cervical carcinoma cells the E6 and E7 genes of specific human papillomaviruses are transcribed from viral sequences integrated into host cell chromosomes. Glucocorticoids activate the promoter elements of various human papillomaviruses in transient-expression assays. We have analyzed the effect of dexamethasone on the transcription rate of human papillomavirus 18 E6 and E7 genes integrated at different chromosomal sites in four cervical cancer cell lines. Dexamethasone led to an increase in the transcription rate of the integrated E6-E7 sequences in C4-1 and C4-2 cells but led to a decrease in SW 756 cells and did not affect the transcription rate in HeLa cells. However, when the viral promoter elements derived from HeLa or SW 756 cells, in which dexamethasone does not activate transcription of the integrated E6-E7 sequences, were tested in transient-expression assays within the same cell lines, dexamethasone consistently activated the viral promoter. It thus appears that dominant regulatory mechanisms presumably depending on the chromosomal integration site are able to override the response of the viral promoter to steroid hormones. The growth rate of all dexamethasone-treated cell lines correlated consistently with the expression of the papillomavirus E6 and E7 genes, supporting their role in the maintenance of the proliferative phenotype of cervical carcinoma cells. Since human papillomaviruses are integrated into the host cell genome at variable, presumably randomly selected chromosomal loci, regulatory mechanisms that influence viral gene expression, and hence cell growth, may differ among cancers of independent clonal origin.

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