The papillomavirus life cycle

J Clin Virol. 2005 Mar:32 Suppl 1:S7-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2004.12.006.


Papillomaviruses infect epithelial cells, and depend on epithelial differentiation for completion of their life cycle. The expression of viral gene products is closely regulated as the infected basal cell migrates towards the epithelial surface. Expression of E6 and E7 in the lower epithelial layers drives cells into S-phase, which creates an environment that is conducive for viral genome replication and cell proliferation. Genome amplification, which is necessary for the production of infectious virions, is prevented until the levels of viral replication proteins rise, and depends on the co-expression of several viral proteins. Virus capsid proteins are expressed in cells that also express E4 as the infected cell enters the upper epithelial layers. The timing of these events varies depending on the infecting papillomavirus, and in the case of the high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs), on the severity of neoplasia. Viruses that are evolutionarily related, such as HPV1 and canine oral papillomavirus (COPV), generally organize their productive cycle in a similar way, despite infecting different hosts and epithelial sites. In some instances, such as following HPV16 infection of the cervix or cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) infection of domestic rabbits, papillomaviruses can undergo abortive infections in which the productive cycle of the virus is not completed. As with other DNA tumour viruses, such abortive infections can predispose to cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epithelial Cells / virology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral*
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / growth & development*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Virus Latency