Model systems of human papillomavirus-associated disease

J Pathol. 2016 Jan;238(2):166-79. doi: 10.1002/path.4656. Epub 2015 Dec 10.


Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) cause a range of serious diseases, including the vast majority of cervical cancers, most anal cancers and around half of head and neck cancers. They are also responsible for troublesome benign epithelial lesions, including genital warts and laryngeal papillomas, and in some individuals HPVs lead to recurrent respiratory papillomatosis and other difficult-to-manage diseases. As a result, there is a great need for model systems that accurately mimic papillomavirus infections in humans. This is complicated by the diverse variety of HPVs, which now number over 200 types, and the different strategies they have evolved to persist in the population. The most well-developed models involve the culture of HPV-containing keratinocytes in organotypic raft culture, an approach which appears to accurately mimic the life cycle of several of the high-risk cancer-associated HPV types. Included amongst these are HPV16 and 18, which cause the majority of cervical cancers. The low-risk HPV types persist less well in tissue-culture models, and our ability to study the productive life cycle of these viruses is more limited. Although ongoing research is likely to improve this situation, animal models of papillomavirus disease can provide considerable basic information as to how lesions form, regress and can be controlled by the immune system. The best studied are cottontail rabbit papillomavirus, rabbit oral papillomavirus and, more recently, mouse papillomavirus (MmuPV), the last of which is providing exciting new insights into viral tropisms and immune control. In addition, transgenic models of disease have helped us to understand the consequences of persistent viral gene expression and the importance of co-factors such as hormones and UV irradiation in the development of neoplasia and cancer. It is hoped that such disease models will eventually lead us to better understanding and better treatments for human disease.

Keywords: HPV; animal models; epithelium; organotypic rafts; papillomaviruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Progression
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Papillomaviridae*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines
  • Rabbits
  • Risk Factors
  • Tumor Virus Infections / prevention & control
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines