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J Virol. 2010 Aug;84(16):8219-30. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00462-10. Epub 2010 Jun 2.

Multiple ASF/SF2 sites in the human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) E4-coding region promote splicing to the most commonly used 3'-splice site on the HPV-16 genome.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, BMC, Uppsala University, Sweden.


Our results presented here demonstrate that the most abundant human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) mRNAs expressing the viral oncogenes E6 and E7 are regulated by cellular ASF/SF2, itself defined as a proto-oncogene and overexpressed in cervical cancer cells. We show that the most frequently used 3'-splice site on the HPV-16 genome, site SA3358, which is used to produce primarily E4, E6, and E7 mRNAs, is regulated by ASF/SF2. Splice site SA3358 is immediately followed by 15 potential binding sites for the splicing factor ASF/SF2. Recombinant ASF/SF2 binds to the cluster of ASF/SF2 sites. Mutational inactivation of all 15 sites abolished splicing to SA3358 and redirected splicing to the downstream-located, late 3'-splice site SA5639. Overexpression of a mutant ASF/SF2 protein that lacks the RS domain, also totally inhibited the usage of SA3358 and redirected splicing to the late 3'-splice site SA5639. The 15 ASF/SF2 binding sites could be replaced by an ASF/SF2-dependent, HIV-1-derived splicing enhancer named GAR. This enhancer was also inhibited by the mutant ASF/SF2 protein that lacks the RS domain. Finally, silencer RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of ASF/SF2 caused a reduction in spliced HPV-16 mRNA levels. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the major HPV-16 3'-splice site SA3358 is dependent on ASF/SF2. SA3358 is used by the most abundantly expressed HPV-16 mRNAs, including those encoding E6 and E7. High levels of ASF/SF2 may therefore be a requirement for progression to cervical cancer. This is supported by our earlier findings that ASF/SF2 is overexpressed in high-grade cervical lesions and cervical cancer.

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