Human papillomavirus type 8 (HPV-8) is a strictly cutaneous oncogenic virus known to induce malignant skin lesions in epidermodysplasia verruciformis patients. Our study shows that sequences surrounding transcription start sites of the HPV-8 oncogene E6 (nt 175-179) and comprising the presumable CCAAC and TATA boxes of the E6 promoter P175 contain a cluster of four motifs similar to the DNA recognition site of the multifunctional cellular transcription factor yin-yang 1 (YY1). Using DNase I footprinting and gel retardation tests it could be demonstrated that three of these motifs indeed act as YY1 binding sites. To test their functional relevance for P175 activity, engineered YY1 binding site mutants were analysed in the context of a P175 test vector using transient expression assays with human keratinocytes. YY1 turned out to exert both positive and negative effects upon the activity of the HPV-8 E6 promoter; binding of YY1 to a site upstream of the promoter's cap-position (BS1) activated transcription, whereas the downstream site (BS2) mediated repression. The second downstream YY1 binding site (BS3) seemed to play an auxiliary role, enhancing the negative effect of YY1 BS2. These observations define YY1 as an important cellular protein involved in the control of E6 oncogene expression of the skin-specific 'high risk' HPV-8 and emphasize the potential regulatory role of sequences located downstream of the transcription start site.


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