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J Virol. 2015 Nov;89(22):11396-405. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02151-15. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Downregulation of Toll-Like Receptor 9 Expression by Beta Human Papillomavirus 38 and Implications for Cell Cycle Control.

Author information

International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.
Centre de Génétique et de Physiologie Moléculaire et Cellulaires, CNRS UMR5534 et Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Lyon, France.
Oncoviruses and Innate Immunity, INSERM U851, INSERM-I2V, UMS34444/US8, Université Lyon 1, Lyon, France.
International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France


Innate immunity is the first line of host defense against infections. Many oncogenic viruses can deregulate several immune-related pathways to guarantee the persistence of the infection. Here, we show that the cutaneous human papillomavirus 38 (HPV38) E6 and E7 oncoproteins suppress the expression of the double-stranded DNA sensor Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) in human foreskin keratinocytes (HFK), a key mediator of the antiviral innate immune host response. In particular, HPV38 E7 induces TLR9 mRNA downregulation by promoting accumulation of ΔNp73α, an antagonist of p53 and p73. Inhibition of ΔNp73α expression by antisense oligonucleotide in HPV38 E6/E7 HFK strongly rescues mRNA levels of TLR9, highlighting a key role of ΔNp73α in this event. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments showed that ΔNp73α is part of a negative transcriptional regulatory complex with IκB kinase beta (IKKβ) that binds to a NF-κB responsive element within the TLR9 promoter. In addition, the Polycomb protein enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), responsible for gene expression silencing, is also recruited into the complex, leading to histone 3 trimethylation at lysine 27 (H3K27me3) in the same region of the TLR9 promoter. Ectopic expression of TLR9 in HPV38 E6/E7 cells resulted in an accumulation of the cell cycle inhibitors p21(WAF1) and p27(Kip1), decreased CDK2-associated kinase activity, and inhibition of cellular proliferation. In summary, our data show that HPV38, similarly to other viruses with well-known oncogenic activity, can downregulate TLR9 expression. In addition, they highlight a new role for TLR9 in cell cycle regulation.


The mucosal high-risk HPV types have been clearly associated with human carcinogenesis. Emerging lines of evidence suggest the involvement of certain cutaneous HPV types in development of skin squamous cell carcinoma, although this association is still under debate. Oncogenic viruses have evolved different strategies to hijack the host immune system in order to guarantee the persistence of the infection. Their capability to evade the immune system is as important as their ability to promote cellular transformation. Therefore, understanding the viral mechanisms involved in viral persistence is a valid tool to evaluate their potential role in human carcinogenesis. Here, we show that E6 and E7 oncoproteins from the cutaneous HPV38 downregulate the expression of the double-stranded DNA sensor TLR9 of innate immunity. We also present evidence that the HPV38-mediated downregulation of TLR9 expression, in addition to its potential impact on the innate immune response, is linked to cell cycle deregulation.

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