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EMBO J. 1997 Feb 3;16(3):504-14.

Expression of the papillomavirus E2 protein in HeLa cells leads to apoptosis.

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D├ępartement des Biotechnologies, URA 1644 du CNRS, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The papillomavirus E2 protein plays a central role in the viral life cycle as it regulates both transcription and replication of the viral genome. In this study, we showed that transient expression of bovine papillomavirus type 1 or human papillomavirus type 18 (HPV18) E2 proteins in HeLa cells activated the transcriptional activity of p53 through at least two pathways. The first one involved the binding of E2 to its recognition elements located in the integrated viral P105 promoter. E2 binding consequently repressed transcription of the endogenous HPV18 E6 oncogene, whose product has been shown previously to promote p53 degradation. The second pathway did not require specific DNA binding by E2. Expression of E2 induced drastic physiological changes, as evidenced by a high level of cell death by apoptosis and G1 arrest. Overexpression of a p53 trans-dominant-negative mutant abolished both E2-induced p53 transcriptional activation and E2-mediated G1 growth arrest, but showed no effect on E2-triggered apoptosis. These results suggest that the effects of E2 on cell cycle progression and cell death follow distinct pathways involving two different functions of p53.

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