Deregulation of E-cadherin by human papillomavirus is not confined to high-risk, cancer-causing types

Br J Dermatol. 2010 Dec;163(6):1253-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09968.x.


Background: E-cadherin is a tumour suppressor protein, which is normally expressed on keratinocytes and antigen-presenting Langerhans cells (LCs) in the epidermis. We have previously shown that E-cadherin is lost from tissues infected with the high-risk cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16.

Objectives: To test if E-cadherin dysregulation is associated with the cancer risk of the infecting HPV and to establish if it is conserved among HPVs in the α, β, γ and μ genera.

Methods: Forty-seven lesions infected with low- or high-risk HPV types spanning four HPV genera were stained for E-cadherin, P-cadherin and CD1a to detect LCs.

Results: Surface E-cadherin was reduced in tissues infected with members of the α4, α7 and α9 species and the γ and μ genera but was equivalent to normal epidermis in the β only-infected lesions tested and patchy in α10-infected tissues. There was a direct relationship between atypical E-cadherin expression and a significant reduction in LCs. Expression of P-cadherin, a protein that is increased in the E-cadherin constitutive knockout mouse, was increased in lesions with reduced E-cadherin.

Conclusions: These data show that E-cadherin dysregulation by HPV is widely conserved across the majority of HPV genera. E-cadherin expression was reduced or lost in epidermis irrespective of the cancer risk of the infecting HPV type or the ability of the virus to degrade retinoblastoma protein or p53. A correlation between dysregulated E-cadherin and reduced numbers of LCs supports viral regulation of surface E-cadherin contributing to viral evasion of the host immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Condylomata Acuminata / metabolism
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Epidermis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Langerhans Cells / pathology
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae* / classification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / metabolism*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • Cadherins