Journal of virology

Human papillomavirus type 16 E6* induces oxidative stress and DNA damage.

PMID 24696478


High-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are the causative agents of virtually all cases of cervical cancer and a significant proportion of other anogenital cancers, as well as both oral and pharyngeal cancers. The high-risk types encode two viral oncogenes, E6 and E7, which work together to initiate cell transformation. Multiple steps involving the activities and interactions of both viral and cellular proteins are involved in the progression from HPV infection to cell transformation to cancer. The E6 oncoprotein is expressed as several isoforms: a full-length variant referred to as E6 and a few shorter isoforms collectively referred to as E6*. In this study, we found that expression of E6* increased the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in both HPV-positive and HPV-negative cells. This increased oxidative stress led to higher levels of DNA damage, as assessed by the comet assay, quantification of 8-oxoguanine, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1. The observed increase in ROS may be due to a decrease in cellular antioxidant activity, as we found that E6* expression also led to decreased expression of superoxide dismutase isoform 2 and glutathione peroxidase. These studies indicate that E6* may play an important role in virus-induced mutagenesis by increasing oxidative stress and DNA damage. Our findings demonstrate for the first time that an HPV gene product, E6*, can increase ROS levels in host cells. This ability may play a significant role both in the viral life cycle and in cancer development, because an increase in oxidative DNA damage may both facilitate HPV genome amplification and increase the probability of HPV16 DNA integration. Integration, in turn, is thought to be an important step in HPV-mediated carcinogenesis.