High-risk human papillomavirus types, especially type 16, are risk factors for cervical cancer. Preliminary studies suggest that HPV16 polymorphisms in the long control region or in the E6 gene may alter the oncogenic potential of the virus. This could partially explain why some lesions progress to cancer while others do not. A systematic study combining the long control region and E6 has not been undertaken. This prompted us to investigate the long control region and the E6 in northern European women infected with human papillomavirus 16. We identified the sequence variations of both regions and investigated the long control region promoter activity among various isolates. In addition, we correlated the distribution of long control region and E6 polymorphisms with disease status. We analyzed 45 samples from Swedish and Finnish women. The long control region and the E6 gene were sequenced after polymerase chain reaction long control region fragments of six European isolates covering the majority of polymorphisms in this region were ligated into the pALuc vector and used for luciferase assays. In European HPV16 isolates, polymorphisms in the long control region are more frequent than in the E6 gene. Nevertheless, the promoter function was slightly increased in only one of the tested European long control region variants. In addition, we found a specific European E6 variant, L83V, to be enriched in high-grade lesions and cancer rather than a specific European long control region variant. The difference in oncogenicity between European HPV16 genotypes is more probably due to an altered property of the corresponding E6 proteins rather than to an altered activity of the P97 promoter.
Copyright 2002 The Cancer Research Campaign