E6 and e7 gene silencing and transformed phenotype of human papillomavirus 16-positive oropharyngeal cancer cells

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 18;101(6):412-23. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djp017. Epub 2009 Mar 10.


Background: The E6 and E7 genes of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) encode oncoproteins that bind and degrade p53 and retinoblastoma (pRb) tumor suppressors, respectively. We examined the effects of repressing E6 and E7 oncogene expression on the transformed phenotype of HPV16-positive oropharyngeal cancer cell lines.

Methods: Human oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer 147T and 090 (harboring integrated HPV16 DNA) and 040T (HPV DNA-negative) cells were infected with retroviruses that expressed a short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting the HPV16 E6 and E7 genes or a scrambled-sequence control shRNA. Flow cytometry, terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated UTP end-labeling assay, and immunoblotting for annexin V were used to assess apoptosis in shRNA-infected cell lines. Biochemical analysis involved quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis of p53- and pRb-target gene expression and immunoblotting for p53 and pRb protein expression.

Results: In 147T and 090 cells, shRNA-mediated inhibition of HPV16 E6 and E7 expression reduced the E6 and E7 mRNA levels by more than 85% compared with control cells that expressed a scrambled-sequence shRNA. E6 and E7 repression resulted in restoration of p53 and pRB protein expression, increased expression of p53-target genes (p21 and FAS), decreased expression of genes whose expression is increased in the absence of functional pRb (DEK and B-MYB), and induced substantial apoptosis in 147T and 090 cells compared with the control shRNA-infected cells (from 13.4% in uninfected to 84.3% in infected 147T cells and from 3.3% in uninfected to 71.2% in infected 090 cells).

Conclusion: Repression of E6 and E7 oncogenes results in restoration of p53 and pRb suppressor pathways and induced apoptosis in HPV16-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer cell lines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Annexin A5 / analysis
  • Apoptosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Papillomavirus E7 Proteins
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications


  • Annexin A5
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • E6 protein, Human papillomavirus type 16
  • EID1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Papillomavirus E7 Proteins
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • oncogene protein E7, Human papillomavirus type 16