The Carcinogenicity of Human Papillomavirus Types Reflects Viral Evolution

Virology. 2005 Jun 20;337(1):76-84. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2005.04.002.

Abstract

Persistent infections with carcinogenic human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause virtually all cervical cancers. Cervical HPV types (n > 40) also represent the most common sexually transmitted agents, and most infections clear in 1-2 years. The risks of persistence and neoplastic progression to cancer and its histologic precursor, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN3), differ markedly by HPV type. To study type-specific HPV natural history, we conducted a 10,000-woman, population-based prospective study of HPV infections and CIN3/cancer in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. By studying large numbers of women, we wished to separate viral persistence from neoplastic progression. We observed a strong concordance of newly-revised HPV evolutionary groupings with the separate risks of persistence and progression to CIN3/cancer. HPV16 was uniquely likely both to persist and to cause neoplastic progression when it persisted, making it a remarkably powerful human carcinogen that merits separate clinical consideration. Specifically, 19.9% of HPV16-infected women were diagnosed with CIN3/cancer at enrollment or during the five-year follow-up. Other carcinogenic types, many related to HPV16, were not particularly persistent but could cause neoplastic progression, at lower rates than HPV16, if they did persist. Some low-risk types were persistent but, nevertheless, virtually never caused CIN3. Therefore, carcinogenicity is not strictly a function of persistence. Separately, we noted that the carcinogenic HPV types code for an E5 protein, whereas most low-risk types either lack a definable homologous E5 ORF and/or a translation start codon for E5. These results present several clear clues and research directions in our ongoing efforts to understand HPV carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cocarcinogenesis*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / classification
  • Papillomaviridae / physiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*