Spontaneous focus formation in the contact-inhibited C127 cell line, cl.2, harbouring multiple copies of a bovine papillomavirus type 1 deletion mutant, was associated with the evolution of further viral genomic deletions in addition to an amplification of the viral genome copy number. Three simple frameshift deletions of 308, 605 and 1291 bp, associated with separate transformation events, were mapped within the E1 open reading frame, implying a common mechanism of spontaneous transformation in this cell line. Furthermore, each transformed cell line also retained multiple copies of the intact E1 gene, suggesting that these novel deletion mutants might function by a dominant-negative mechanism to disrupt the normal control of viral DNA replication or viral transcription. These mutants had the potential to encode truncated E1 polypeptides with a common N-terminal region encoded by the 5′ end of E1, i.e. overlapping the previously described E1 modulator gene. A possible role for these mutants in diverting a lethal type of virus-cell interaction is discussed.


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