Nuclear matrix attachment regions of human papillomavirus type 16 repress or activate the E6 promoter, depending on the physical state of the viral DNA

Walter Stünkel, Zhonghui Huang, Shyh Han Tan, Mark J. O'Connor, Hans Ulrich Bernard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Two nuclear matrix attachment regions (MARs) bracket a 550-bp segment of the long control region (LCR) containing the epithelial cell-specific enhancer and the E6 promoter of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16). One of these MARs is located in the 5' third of the LCR (5'-LCR-MAR); the other lies within the E6 gene (E6-MAR). To study their function, we linked these MARs in various natural or artificial permutations to a chimeric gene consisting of the HPV-16 enhancer-promoter segment and a reporter gene. In transient transfections of HeLa cells, the presence of either of these two MARs strongly represses reporter gene expression. In contrast to this, but similar to the published behavior of cellular MARs, reporter gene expression is stimulated strongly by the E6-MAR and moderately by the 5'-LCR-MAR in stable transfectants of HeLa or C33A cells. To search for binding sites of soluble nuclear proteins which may be responsible for repression during transient transfections, we performed electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) of overlapping oligonucleotides that represented all sequences of these two MARs. Both MARs contain multiple sites for two strongly binding proteins and weak binding sites for additional factors. The strongest complex, with at least five binding sites in each MAR, is generated by the CCAAT displacement factor (CDP)/Cut, as judged by biochemical purification, by EMSAs with competing oligonucleotides and with anti-CDP/Cut oligonucleotides, and by mutations. CDP/Cut, a repressor that is down-regulated during differentiation, apparently represses HPV-16 transcription in undifferentiated epithelials cells and in HeLa cells, which are rich in CDP/Cut. In analogy to poorly understood mechanisms acting on cellular MARs, activation after physical linkage to chromosomal DNA may result from competition between the nuclear matrix and CDP/Cut. Our observations show that cis-responsive elements that regulate the HPV-16 E6 promoter are tightly clustered over at least 1.3 kb and occur throughout the E6 gene. HPV-16 MARs are context dependent transcriptional enhancers, and activated expression of HPV-16 oncogenes dependent on chromosomal integration may positively select tumorigenic cells during the multistep etiology of cervical cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2489-2501
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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