Association of papillomavirus E6 proteins with either MAML1 or E6AP clusters E6 proteins by structure, function, and evolutionary relatedness

PLoS Pathog. 2017 Dec 27;13(12):e1006781. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006781. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Papillomavirus E6 proteins bind to LXXLL peptide motifs displayed on targeted cellular proteins. Alpha genus HPV E6 proteins associate with the cellular ubiquitin ligase E6AP (UBE3A), by binding to an LXXLL peptide (ELTLQELLGEE) displayed by E6AP, thereby stimulating E6AP ubiquitin ligase activity. Beta, Gamma, and Delta genera E6 proteins bind a similar LXXLL peptide (WMSDLDDLLGS) on the cellular transcriptional co-activator MAML1 and thereby repress Notch signaling. We expressed 45 different animal and human E6 proteins from diverse papillomavirus genera to ascertain the overall preference of E6 proteins for E6AP or MAML1. E6 proteins from all HPV genera except Alpha preferentially interacted with MAML1 over E6AP. Among animal papillomaviruses, E6 proteins from certain ungulate (SsPV1 from pigs) and cetacean (porpoises and dolphins) hosts functionally resembled Alpha genus HPV by binding and targeting the degradation of E6AP. Beta genus HPV E6 proteins functionally clustered with Delta, Pi, Tau, Gamma, Chi, Mu, Lambda, Iota, Dyokappa, Rho, and Dyolambda E6 proteins to bind and repress MAML1. None of the tested E6 proteins physically and functionally interacted with both MAML1 and E6AP, indicating an evolutionary split. Further, interaction of an E6 protein was insufficient to activate degradation of E6AP, indicating that E6 proteins that target E6AP co-evolved to separately acquire both binding and triggering of ubiquitin ligase activation. E6 proteins with similar biological function clustered together in phylogenetic trees and shared structural features. This suggests that the divergence of E6 proteins from either MAML1 or E6AP binding preference is a major event in papillomavirus evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / chemistry
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism*
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / metabolism*
  • Papillomaviridae / pathogenicity
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E6 protein, Human papillomavirus type 16
  • MAML1 protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • protein E6, Bovine papillomavirus
  • UBE3A protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases