A short non-coding region (SNR) commonly exists between the E5 and L2 open reading frames of human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Except for the poly(A) signal for early gene transcripts, no biological functions have been discovered for the SNR. To test a possible promoter-like activity of the SNR, we carried out CAT reporter assays using constructs containing the SNRs from HPV-16, -18 and -33 linked to a promoterless CAT gene. We reproducibly observed enhanced expression of CAT gene by the SNRs. Co-expression of a transcriptional activator (LAP/NF-IL6) or deletion of the poly(A) signal augmented the promoter-like activity of the SNRs. RNase protection assays revealed a LAP-inducible CAT mRNA properly initiated from the HPV-16 SNR. These results may suggest that the SNR has a promoter activity that is regulated by keratinocyte differentiation.


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