RNA-Seq Analysis of Differentiated Keratinocytes Reveals a Massive Response to Late Events during Human Papillomavirus 16 Infection, Including Loss of Epithelial Barrier Function

J Virol. 2017 Nov 30;91(24):e01001-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01001-17. Print 2017 Dec 15.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) replication cycle is tightly linked to epithelial cell differentiation. To examine HPV-associated changes in the keratinocyte transcriptome, RNAs isolated from undifferentiated and differentiated cell populations of normal, spontaneously immortalized keratinocytes (NIKS) and NIKS stably transfected with HPV16 episomal genomes (NIKS16) were compared using next-generation sequencing (RNA-Seq). HPV16 infection altered expression of 2,862 cellular genes. Next, to elucidate the role of keratinocyte gene expression in late events during the viral life cycle, RNA-Seq was carried out on triplicate differentiated populations of NIKS (uninfected) and NIKS16 (infected). Of the top 966 genes altered (>log2 = 1.8, 3.5-fold change), 670 genes were downregulated and 296 genes were upregulated. HPV downregulated many genes involved in epithelial barrier function, which involves structural resistance to the environment and immunity to infectious agents. For example, HPV infection repressed expression of the differentiated keratinocyte-specific pattern recognition receptor TLR7, the Langerhans cell chemoattractant CCL20, and proinflammatory cytokines interleukin 1α (IL-1α) and IL-1β. However, the type I interferon regulator IRF1, kappa interferon (IFN-κ), and viral restriction factors (IFIT1, -2, -3, and -5, OASL, CD74, and RTP4) were upregulated. HPV infection abrogated gene expression associated with the physical epithelial barrier, including keratinocyte cytoskeleton, intercellular junctions, and cell adhesion. Quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR) and Western blotting confirmed changes in expression of seven of the most significantly altered mRNAs. Expression of three genes showed statistically significant changes during cervical disease progression in clinical samples. Taken together, the data indicate that HPV infection manipulates the differentiating keratinocyte transcriptome to create an environment conducive to productive viral replication and egress.IMPORTANCE HPV genome amplification and capsid formation take place in differentiated keratinocytes. The viral life cycle is intimately associated with host cell differentiation. Deep sequencing (RNA-Seq) of RNA from undifferentiated and differentiated uninfected and HPV16-positive keratinocytes showed that almost 3,000 genes were differentially expressed in keratinocytes due to HPV16 infection. Strikingly, the epithelial barrier function of differentiated keratinocytes, comprising keratinocyte immune function and cellular structure, was found to be disrupted. These data provide new insights into the virus-host interaction that is crucial for the production of infectious virus and reveal that HPV infection remodels keratinocytes for completion of the virus replication cycle.

Keywords: cervical disease; epithelial cells; epithelial differentiation; human papillomavirus 16; keratinocyte transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / pathogenicity*
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / virology
  • Mice
  • Papillomavirus Infections / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / genetics
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Virus Replication