During persistent human papillomavirus infection, the viral genome replicates as an extrachromosomal plasmid that is efficiently partitioned to daughter cells during cell division. We have previously shown that an element which overlaps the human papillomavirus 18 (HPV18) transcriptional enhancer promotes stable DNA replication of replicons containing the viral replication origin. Here, we perform comprehensive analyses to elucidate the function of this maintenance element. We conclude that no unique element or binding site in this region is absolutely required for persistent replication and partitioning and instead propose that the overall chromatin architecture of this region is important to promote efficient use of the replication origin. These results have important implications for the genome partitioning mechanism of papillomaviruses. IMPORTANCE Persistent infection with oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs) is responsible for ∼5% of human cancers. The viral DNA replicates as an extrachromosomal plasmid and is partitioned to daughter cells in dividing keratinocytes. Using a complementation assay that allows us to separate viral transcription and replication, we provide insight into viral sequences that are required for long-term replication and persistence in keratinocytes. Understanding how viral genomes replicate persistently for such long periods of time will guide the development of antiviral therapies.
Keywords: AP1; Alphapapillomavirus; HPV; HPV18; c-MYC; enhancer; maintenance; papillomavirus; partitioning; persistence; persistent infection; replication.