HPV oncogenes expressed from only one of multiple integrated HPV DNA copies drive clonal cell expansion in cervical cancer

Lulu Yu, Vladimir Majerciak, Alexei Lobanov, Sameer Mirza, Vimla Band, Haibin Liu, Maggie Cam, Stephen H. Hughes, Douglas R. Lowy, Zhi Ming Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The integration of HPV DNA into human chromosomes plays a pivotal role in the onset of papillomavirus-related cancers. HPV DNA integration often occurs by linearizing the viral DNA in the E1/E2 region, resulting in the loss of a critical viral early polyadenylation signal (PAS), which is essential for the polyadenylation of the E6E7 bicistronic transcripts and for the expression of the viral E6 and E7 oncogenes. Here, we provide compelling evidence that, despite the presence of numerous integrated viral DNA copies, virus-host fusion transcripts originate from only a single integrated HPV DNA in HPV16 and HPV18 cervical cancers and cervical cancer-derived cell lines. The host genomic elements neighboring the integrated HPV DNA are critical for the efficient expression of the viral oncogenes that leads to clonal cell expansion. The fusion RNAs that are produced use a host RNA polyadenylation signal downstream of the integration site, and almost all involve splicing to host sequences. In cell culture, siRNAs specifically targeting the host portion of the virus-host fusion transcripts effectively silenced viral E6 and E7 expression. This, in turn, inhibited cell growth and promoted cell senescence in HPV16+ CaSki and HPV18+ HeLa cells. Showing that HPV E6 and E7 expression from a single integration site is instrumental in clonal cell expansion sheds new light on the mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and could be used for the development of precision medicine tailored to combat HPV-related malignancies.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • carcinogenesis
  • clonal expansion
  • human papillomavirus
  • integration
  • oncogene expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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