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Rev Med Virol. 2009 Mar;19(2):97-113. doi: 10.1002/rmv.605.

Molecular mechanisms of cervical carcinogenesis by high-risk human papillomaviruses: novel functions of E6 and E7 oncoproteins.

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Virology Division, National Cancer Center Research Institute, 5-1-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan.


Over the last two decades, since the initial discovery of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 and 18 DNAs in cervical cancers by Dr. Harald zur Hausen (winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2008), the HPVs have been well characterised as causative agents for cervical cancer. Viral DNA from a specific group of HPVs can be detected in at least 90% of all cervical cancers and two viral genes, E6 and E7, are invariably expressed in HPV-positive cervical cancer cells. Their gene products are known to inactivate the major tumour suppressors, p53 and retinoblastoma protein (pRB), respectively. In addition, one function of E6 is to activate telomerase, and E6 and E7 cooperate to effectively immortalise human primary epithelial cells. Though expression of E6 and E7 is itself not sufficient for cancer development, it seems to be either directly or indirectly involved in every stage of multi-step carcinogenesis. Epidemiological and biological studies suggest the potential efficacy of prophylactic vaccines to prevent genital HPV infection as an anti-cancer strategy. However, given the widespread nature of HPV infection and unresolved issues about the duration and type specificity of the currently available HPV vaccines, it is crucial that molecular details of the natural history of HPV infection as well as the biological activities of the viral oncoproteins be elucidated in order to provide the basis for development of new therapeutic strategies against HPV-associated malignancies. This review highlights novel functions of E6 and E7 as well as the molecular mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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