Some novel insights on HPV16 related cervical cancer pathogenesis based on analyses of LCR methylation, viral load, E7 and E2/E4 expressions

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44678. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044678. Epub 2012 Sep 6.


This study was undertaken to decipher the interdependent roles of (i) methylation within E2 binding site I and II (E2BS-I/II) and replication origin (nt 7862) in the long control region (LCR), (ii) expression of viral oncogene E7, (iii) expression of the transcript (E7-E1/E4) that encodes E2 repressor protein and (iv) viral load, in human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) related cervical cancer (CaCx) pathogenesis. The results revealed over-representation (p<0.001) of methylation at nucleotide 58 of E2BS-I among E2-intact CaCx cases compared to E2-disrupted cases. Bisulphite sequencing of LCR revealed overrepresentation of methylation at nucleotide 58 or other CpGs in E2BS-I/II, among E2-intact cases than E2-disrupted cases and lack of methylation at replication origin in case of both. The viral transcript (E7-E1/E4) that produces the repressor E2 was analyzed by APOT (amplification of papillomavirus oncogenic transcript)-coupled-quantitative-RT-PCR (of E7 and E4 genes) to distinguish episomal (pure or concomitant with integrated) from purely integrated viral genomes based on the ratio, E7 C(T)/E4 C(T). Relative quantification based on comparative C(T) (threshold cycle) method revealed 75.087 folds higher E7 mRNA expression in episomal cases over purely integrated cases. Viral load and E2 gene copy numbers were negatively correlated with E7 C(T) (p = 0.007) and E2 C(T) (p<0.0001), respectively, each normalized with ACTB C(T), among episomal cases only. The k-means clustering analysis considering E7 C(T) from APOT-coupled-quantitative-RT-PCR assay, in conjunction with viral load, revealed immense heterogeneity among the HPV16 positive CaCx cases portraying integrated viral genomes. The findings provide novel insights into HPV16 related CaCx pathogenesis and highlight that CaCx cases that harbour episomal HPV16 genomes with intact E2 are likely to be distinct biologically, from the purely integrated viral genomes in terms of host genes and/or pathways involved in cervical carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / isolation & purification
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Viral Load*


  • DNA Primers
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • RNA, Messenger

Grant support

This work was supported by Department of Biotechnology (Grant No. BT/PR8014/Med/14/1220/2006), Government of India. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.