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Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are causative agents in ano-genital and oropharyngeal cancers. The virus must reprogram host gene expression to promote infection, and E6 and E7 contribute to this via targeting of cellular transcription factors including p53 and pRb, respectively. The HPV16 E2 protein regulates host gene expression in U2OS cells and in this study we extend these observations into TERT immortalized oral keratinocytes (NOKs) that are capable of supporting late stages of the HPV16 life cycle. We observed repression of innate immune genes by E2 that are also repressed by the intact HPV16 genome in NOKs. RNA-seq data identified 167 up and 395 downregulated genes by E2; there was a highly significant overlap of the E2 regulated genes with those regulated by the intact HPV16 genome in the same cell type. siRNA targeting of E2 reversed repression of E2 targeted genes. The ability of E2 to repress innate immune genes was confirmed in an ano-genital immortalized keratinocyte cell line, N/Tert-1. We present analysis of data from The Cancer Genome Atlas () for HPV16 positive and negative head and neck cancers (HNC) suggesting that E2 plays a role in regulation of the host genome in cancers. Patients with HPV16 positive HNC with a loss of E2 expression exhibit a worse clinical outcome and we discuss how this could, at least partially, be related to the loss of E2 host gene regulation. HPV16 positive tumors that retain expression of E2 have a better clinical outcome than those that have lost E2 expression. It has been suggested that this is due to a loss of E2 repression of E6 and E7 expression but this is not supported by data from tumors where there is not more E6 and E7 expression in the absence of E2. Here we report that E2 regulates host gene expression and place this regulation in context of the HPV16 life cycle and HPV16 positive head and neck cancers (the majority of which retain E2 expression). We propose that this E2 function may play an important part in the increased response of HPV16 positive cancers to radiation therapy. Therefore, host gene regulation by E2 may be important for promotion of the HPV16 life cycle, and also for the response of HPV16 positive tumors to radiation therapy.
PMID: 30518656 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]