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Papillomavirus Res. 2015 Dec 1;1:116-125.

Human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) enhances tumor growth and cancer stemness of HPV-negative oral/oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma cells via miR-181 regulation.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Viral Oncology and Aging Research, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles,CA 90095.
2
Laboratory of Viral Oncology and Aging Research, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles,CA 90095 ; UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
3
Laboratory of Viral Oncology and Aging Research, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles,CA 90095 ; UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095 ; David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095.

Abstract

High-risk human papillomaviruses (e.g., HPV16, HPV18) are closely associated with the development of head and neck cancers including oral/oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). We previously demonstrated immortalization of normal human oral keratinocytes by introducing high-risk HPV whole genome, suggesting that HPV infection plays an important role in the early stage of oral carcinogenesis. Although HPV infection may occur in different stages of cancer development, roles of HPV in exacerbating malignant phenotypes in already-transformed cells in the context of cancer stemness are not clearly defined. In this study, we investigated the role of HPV16 in promoting the virulence of HPV-negative OSCC. Introducing HPV16 whole genome in HPV-negative OSCC increased malignant growth and self-renewal capacity, a key characteristic of cancer stem cells (CSCs). HPV16 also enhanced other CSC properties, including aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1) activity, migration/invasion, and CSC-related factor expression. Mechanistically, we found that HPV16 inhibited the expression of miR-181a and miR-181d (miR-181a/d) at the transcriptional level. Ectopic expression of miR-181a/d decreased anchorage independent growth and CSC phenotype of HPV16-transfected OSCC. Furthermore, silencing of miR-181a/d target genes, i.e., K-ras and ALDH1, abrogated the effects of HPV16 in HPV16-transfected OSCC, supporting the functional importance of HPV16/miR-181a/d axis in HPV-mediated oral carcinogenesis. Our study suggests that high-risk HPV infection further promotes malignancy in HPV-negative OSCC by enhancing cancer stemness via miR-181a/d regulation. Consequently, miR-181a/d may represent a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of HPV-positive OSCC.

KEYWORDS:

HPV; OSCC; cancer stem cells; miR-181

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