Stress keratin 17 and estrogen support viral persistence and modulate the immune environment during cervicovaginal murine papillomavirus infection

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Mar 21;120(12):e2214225120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2214225120. Epub 2023 Mar 14.


A murine papillomavirus, MmuPV1, infects both cutaneous and mucosal epithelia of laboratory mice and can be used to model high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated disease. We have shown that estrogen exacerbates papillomavirus-induced cervical disease in HPV-transgenic mice. We have also previously identified stress keratin 17 (K17) as a host factor that supports MmuPV1-induced cutaneous disease. Here, we sought to test the role of estrogen and K17 in MmuPV1 infection and associated disease in the female reproductive tract. We experimentally infected wild-type and K17 knockout (K17KO) mice with MmuPV1 in the female reproductive tract in the presence or absence of exogenous estrogen for 6 mon. We observed that a significantly higher percentage of K17KO mice cleared the virus as opposed to wild-type mice. In estrogen-treated wild-type mice, the MmuPV1 viral copy number was significantly higher compared to untreated mice by as early as 2 wk postinfection, suggesting that estrogen may help facilitate MmuPV1 infection and/or establishment. Consistent with this, viral clearance was not observed in either wild-type or K17KO mice when treated with estrogen. Furthermore, neoplastic disease progression and cervical carcinogenesis were supported by the presence of K17 and exacerbated by estrogen treatment. Subsequent analyses indicated that estrogen treatment induces a systemic immunosuppressive state in MmuPV1-infected animals and that both estrogen and K17 modulate the local intratumoral immune microenvironment within MmuPV1-induced neoplastic lesions. Collectively, these findings suggest that estrogen and K17 act at multiple stages of papillomavirus-induced disease at least in part via immunomodulatory mechanisms.

Keywords: cervical cancer; estrogen; papillomavirus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrogens
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Keratin-17
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / genetics


  • Keratin-17
  • Estrogens