The E1 and E2 proteins are the only human papillomavirus (HPV) proteins required for transient replication of plasmids containing the viral origin. The E2 gene products play key roles in both viral transcription and replication. In this study we have analysed in further detail the nature of the association between E1 and E2 using a series of E2 proteins mutated in conserved regions of the N-terminal domain. These proteins were tested for their ability to activate transcription and to stimulate viral DNA replication. Several of these mutants revealed that the two functions of E2 can be separated, and that they define three widely spaced regions of the N-terminal domain which are important for DNA replication, two of which retain E1-binding activity. This suggests that E2 may have a role in viral DNA replication other than simply localizing E1 to the origin of replication. Additional important elements for regulating viral gene expression have been shown to be glucocorticoid hormones and epidermal growth factor (EGF). We show here that they may also be involved in regulating viral DNA replication. Our studies show that the addition of glucocorticoid hormone significantly stimulates viral DNA replication. In contrast, addition of EGF results in modest repression of viral DNA replication. These results have important implications for the pathogenesis of HPV infection and suggest that the relative levels of E2, glucocorticoid hormone and EGF may significantly affect the outcome of an HPV infection.


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