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J Mol Med (Berl). 2009 Mar;87(3):321-31. doi: 10.1007/s00109-008-0432-1. Epub 2008 Dec 21.

A novel peptide motif binding to and blocking the intracellular activity of the human papillomavirus E6 oncoprotein.

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German Cancer Research Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld, Heidelberg, Germany.


Specific types of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) cause cervical cancer. The viral E6 oncogene is a critical factor for maintaining the malignant phenotype of HPV-positive tumour cells. By yeast two-hybrid screening of a randomised peptide expression library, we isolated linear short peptides, which specifically bind to the HPV16 E6 oncoprotein. Sequence alignments and mutational analyses of the peptides identified a hitherto undiscovered E6-binding motif. Intracellular expression of a peptide containing the novel E6-binding motif resulted in inhibition of colony formation capacity, specifically of HPV16-positive cancer cells. A solubility-optimised variant of the peptide was created, which binds to HPV16 E6 with high affinity. Its intracellular expression efficiently induced apoptosis in HPV16-positive cancer cells. This was linked to restoration of intracellular p53 activities. Thus, this newly identified E6-binding motif could form a novel basis for the development of rational strategies for the treatment of HPV16-positive preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions.

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