Geographic specificity of nucleotide sequence variations in the coding and noncoding regions of HPV 16 genome has been reported. Little has been known, however, regarding whether these naturally occurring sequence variations of HPV 16 may result in marked differences in biological properties, such as oncogenic potential. This study was performed to identify sequence variants in the HPV 16 E7 gene derived from Korean women with cervical cancerous and noncancerous lesions, and to assess the association between the sequence variant and the cervical cancer. We examined E7 variants of HPV 16 in a total of 157 patients with no cervical disease (NCD, n = 87) or cervical neoplasia (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 3, n = 21; cervical carcinoma, n = 49), using the nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and the PCR-directed sequencing methods with outer consensus and inner type-specific primers. Forty-two (NCD, n = 9; CIN 3, n = 6; cervical carcinoma, n = 27) of 157 cervical samples contained HPV 16 E7 DNA, but only 8 had prototype sequences. Four variants of the HPV 16 E7 gene were identified. The variant with a single nucleotide change at position 647 (A --> G, Asn --> Ser) was found in about 60% of DNA samples with HPV 16. The second most common variant, found in 16.7% of cases, had three silent mutations at positions 732 (T --> C), 789 (T --> C), and 795 (T --> G). Two other variants were detected, one in a patient with cervical cancer and the other in a patient with no cervical disease. One had a single nucleotide change at position 666 (G --> A) and the other had one silent mutation at position 796 (T --> C). The most common variant in Korea has a change of nucleotide affecting the predicted amino acid related with high antigenicity and binding to retinoblastoma protein. There was a statistically significant trend for this variant to be more frequently detected in cancerous lesions of the uterine cervix than in noncancerous lesions. These data suggest that naturally occurring sequence variants of HPV 16 E7 gene may have different oncogenic properties.