Background: Infection with high-risk type human papilloma viruses (HPVs) is associated with cervical carcinomas and with a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Viral E6 and E7 oncogenes cooperate to achieve cell immortalization by a mechanism that is not yet fully understood. Here, human keratinocytes were immortalized by long-term expression of HPV type 16 E6 or E7 oncoproteins, or both. Proteomic profiling was used to compare expression levels for 741 discrete protein features.
Results: Six replicate measurements were performed for each group using two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE). The median within-group coefficient of variation was 19-21%. Significance of between-group differences was tested based on Significance Analysis of Microarray and fold change. Expression of 170 (23%) of the protein features changed significantly in immortalized cells compared to primary keratinocytes. Most of these changes were qualitatively similar in cells immortalized by E6, E7, or E6/7 expression, indicating convergence on a common phenotype, but fifteen proteins (~2%) were outliers in this regulatory pattern. Ten demonstrated opposite regulation in E6- and E7-expressing cells, including the cell cycle regulator p16INK4a; the carbohydrate binding protein Galectin-7; two differentially migrating forms of the intermediate filament protein Cytokeratin-7; HSPA1A (Hsp70-1); and five unidentified proteins. Five others had a pattern of expression that suggested cooperativity between the co-expressed oncoproteins. Two of these were identified as forms of the small heat shock protein HSPB1 (Hsp27).
Conclusion: This large-scale analysis provides a framework for understanding the cooperation between E6 and E7 oncoproteins in HPV-driven carcinogenesis.