Journal of virology

A conserved amphipathic helix in the N-terminal regulatory region of the papillomavirus E1 helicase is required for efficient viral DNA replication.

PMID 21450828


The papillomavirus E1 helicase, with the help of E2, assembles at the viral origin into a double hexamer that orchestrates replication of the viral genome. The N-terminal region (NTR) of E1 is essential for DNA replication in vivo but dispensable in vitro, suggesting that it has a regulatory function. By deletion analysis, we identified a conserved region of the E1 NTR needed for efficient replication of viral DNA. This region is predicted to form an amphipathic α-helix (AH) and shows sequence similarity to portions of the p53 and herpes simplex virus (HSV) VP16 transactivation domains known as transactivation domain 2 (TAD2) and VP16C, which fold into α-helices upon binding their target proteins, including the Tfb1/p62 (Saccharomyces cerevisiae/human) subunit of general transcription factor TFIIH. By nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), we found that a peptide spanning the E1 AH binds Tfb1 on the same surface as TAD2/VP16C and with a comparable affinity, suggesting that it does bind as an α-helix. Furthermore, the E1 NTRs from several human papillomavirus (HPV) types could activate transcription in yeast, and to a lesser extent in mammalian cells, when fused to a heterologous DNA-binding domain. Mutation of the three conserved hydrophobic residues in the E1 AH, analogous to those in TAD2/VP16C that directly contact their target proteins, decreased transactivation activity and, importantly, also reduced by 50% the ability of E1 to support transient replication of DNA in C33A cells, at a step following assembly of the E1-E2-ori preinitiation complex. These results demonstrate the existence of a conserved TAD2/VP16C-like AH in E1 that is required for efficient replication of viral DNA.