Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the causative agents of a subset of cervical cancers that are associated with persistent viral infection. The HPV genome is an ∼8 kb circle of double-stranded DNA that encodes eight viral proteins, among which the products of the E6 and E7 open reading frames are recognized as being the primary HPV oncogenes. E6 and E7 are expressed in pre-malignant lesions as well as in cervical cancers; hence these proteins have been extensively studied as potential targets for HPV therapies and novel vaccines. Here we review the expression and functions of E6 and E7 in the viral vegetative cycle and in oncogenesis. We also explore the expression and functions of other HPV proteins, including those with oncogenic properties, and discuss the potential of these molecules as alternative therapeutic targets.
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