The papillomavirus (PV) E1 helicase contains a conserved C-terminal domain (CTD), located next to its ATP-binding site, whose function in vivo is still poorly understood. The CTD is comprised of an alpha helix followed by an acidic region (AR) and a C-terminal extension termed the C-tail. Recent biochemical studies on bovine papillomavirus 1 (BPV1) E1 showed that the AR and C-tail regulate the oligomerization of the protein into a double hexamer at the origin. In this study, we assessed the importance of the CTD of human papillomavirus 11 (HPV11) E1 in vivo, using a cell-based DNA replication assay. Our results indicate that combined deletion of the AR and C-tail drastically reduces DNA replication, by 85%, and that further truncation into the alpha-helical region compromises the structural integrity of the E1 helicase domain and its interaction with E2. Surprisingly, removal of the C-tail alone or mutation of highly conserved residues within the domain still allows significant levels of DNA replication (55%). This is in contrast to the absolute requirement for the C-tail reported for BPV1 E1 in vitro and confirmed here in vivo. Characterization of chimeric proteins in which the AR and C-tail from HPV11 E1 were replaced by those of BPV1 indicated that while the function of the AR is transferable, that of the C-tail is not. Collectively, these findings define the contribution of the three CTD subdomains to the DNA replication activity of E1 in vivo and suggest that the function of the C-tail has evolved in a PV type-specific manner.
Importance: While much is known about hexameric DNA helicases from superfamily 3, the papillomavirus E1 helicase contains a unique C-terminal domain (CTD) adjacent to its ATP-binding site. We show here that this CTD is important for the DNA replication activity of HPV11 E1 in vivo and that it can be divided into three functional subdomains that roughly correspond to the three conserved regions of the CTD: an alpha helix, needed for the structural integrity of the helicase domain, followed by an acidic region (AR) and a C-terminal tail (C-tail) that have been shown to regulate the oligomerization of BPV1 E1 in vitro. Characterization of E1 chimeras revealed that, while the function of the AR could be transferred from BPV1 E1 to HPV11 E1, that of the C-tail could not. These results suggest that the E1 CTD performs multiple functions in DNA replication, some of them in a virus type-specific manner.
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