Background: Recently, transcriptional gene silencing induced by small interfering RNA (siRNA) was found in mammalian and human cells. However, previous studies focused on endogenous genes.
Methods: In this study, we designed siRNA targeting the promoter of human papillomavirus 16 E6/E7 and transfected it into the cervical cancer cell line, SiHa. E6 and E7 mRNA and protein expression were detected in cells treated by promoter-targeting siRNA. Futhermore, cellular growth, proliferation, apoptosis and senescence were detected. Thereafter, we investigated promoter DNA methylation and histone methylation status in cells treated with promoter-targeting siRNA.
Results: We found that E6/E7 mRNA and protein were simultaneously reduced, cell growth and proliferation were inhibited and cell death, especially senescence, was remarkably increased. Meanwhile, we also found a significantly increasing histone H3-Lys9 methylation on the promoter when E6/E7 gene expression was inhibited.
Interpretation: Our findings suggest that promoter-targeting siRNA effectively and simultaneously knocks down both extraneous HPV 16 E6 and E7 at the transcriptional level, and consequently inhibits proliferation and induces death in HPV 16-infected cells. This transcriptional repression is probably induced by histone modification rather than by alteration of DNA methylation.