The E6 and E7 proteins of the high risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are consistently expressed in HPV-positive cervical carcinomas. We investigated the ability of HPV-16 E6 and E7 to disrupt mitotic checkpoints in normal diploid human cells. Acute expression of HPV-16 E6, but not HPV-16 E7, decreased the fidelity of multiple checkpoints controlling entry into and exit from mitosis. After irradiation, nearly 50% of cells containing HPV-16 E6 readily entered mitosis as opposed to less than 10% of control cells. Consistent with this, asynchronous populations of cells expressing HPV-16 E6 had increased cdc2-associated histone H1 kinase activity relative to control populations. In addition, HPV-16 E6 increased sensitivity to chemically-induced S-phase premature mitosis and decreased mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint function relative to control populations. HPV-16 E6 mutants with a reduced ability to target p53 for degradation were unable to abrogate mitotic checkpoints, suggesting a possible mechanism by which HPV-16 E6 disrupts mitotic checkpoints. Expression of a mutant p53 gene yielded an intermediate phenotype relative to HPV-16 E6, generating moderate increases in sensitivity to chemically-induced S-phase PCC and mitotic spindle disruption and a heightened propensity to enter mitosis after irradiation.