Background: Coinfection with multiple HPV types is common in cervical lesions, but the biological significance of the individual infections is difficult to establish. Expression of oncogenic E6/E7 HPV mRNA is correlated to risk of malignant progression, commercial assays for genotyping E6/E7 mRNA of all HR-HPV are lacking.
Objectives: To characterize the tendency of 12 HR-HPV to express mRNA, correlated to the severity of the cervical lesion. Furthermore, we wanted to analyse mRNA expression in multiple infections, in order to establish which genotype may be responsible for cellular transformation.
Study design: 245 samples from women with normal histology, various grades of dysplasia (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 1-3), and cancer, were analysed for presence and genotyping of HPV DNA and mRNA using an in house real-time PCR test.
Results: Presence of mRNA was detected for 64% of the in total 422 HPV infections present in the samples, and more commonly in high-grade lesions. In 88% of DNA-positive samples from CIN2+ lesions, mRNA could be detected, compared to 33% of DNA-positive samples from women in screening with normal cytology. The genotype most prone to express mRNA in high-grade lesions was HPV45, followed by HPV16 and HPV31, less prone was HPV59. Expression of mRNA was significantly enhanced in CIN2+ lesions, an association also found for HPV16. In 52% of multiple infections (in which mRNA expression was generally more common), more than one genotype expressed mRNA, a phenomenon increasing with severity of lesion. Presence of mRNA could more often be detected in samples with multiple infections than in samples with single infections.
Conclusions: The frequent expression of E6/E7 by HPV45 may promote oncogenicity and could be of clinical importance. Since presence of E6/E7 mRNA was common in multiple infections regardless of histology, multiple infection could be a clinically important finding. In multiple HPV infections, mRNA testing may identify the genotype that causes transformation. However, since mRNA expression of several genotypes in one sample is common, further and larger studies using complementary techniques are required.
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