We have cloned and sequenced the L1 and L2 genes from human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) DNA-containing cervical cytology samples collected from the U.K. and Trinidad. Samples containing high copy numbers of HPV16 DNA were selected as being likely to contain fully functional virus DNA molecules in an episomal state, rather than in an integrated and possibly altered state. In comparison with the previously published sequence of HPV16 isolated from an invasive cancer a variety of differences were detected in both L1 and L2. The pattern of changes appears to be different in samples from the two geographic regions. One of the differences (resulting in D at position 202 of the L1 protein) reported recently to be functionally important for virus particle assembly was found to occur in all the samples examined. Variations in L1 found within known immunoreactive regions or hydrophobic domains should be taken into account in design of prophylactic vaccines for HPV16 based on virus-like particles. All variations within L2 protein were found in hydrophilic domains in the carboxy-terminal half of L2. These positions were highly variable among other types of papillomavirus and are located outside the known L2 immunoreactive region.


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