Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) is a major cause of cervical neoplasia, but only a minority of HPV-16 infections result in cancer. Whether particular HPV-16 variants are associated with cervical disease has not yet been clearly established. An investigation of whether cervical neoplasia is associated with infection with HPV-16 intratypic variants was undertaken by using RFLP analyses in a study of 100 HPV-16 DNA-positive women with or without neoplasia. RFLP variant 2 was positively associated [odds ratio (OR)=2·57] and variant 5 was negatively associated with disease (OR=0·2). Variant 1, which resembles the reference isolate of HPV-16, was found at a similar prevalence among those with and without neoplasia. Variants 1 and 2 were also more likely to be associated with detectable viral mRNA than variant 5 (respectively =0·03 and =0·00). When HPV-16 E5 ORFs in 50 clones from 36 clinical samples were sequenced, 19 variant HPV-16 E5 DNA sequences were identified. Twelve of these DNA sequences encoded variant E5 amino acid sequences, 10 of which were novel. Whilst the associations between HPV-16 E5 RFLP variants and neoplasia could not be attributed to differences in amino acid sequences, correlation was observed in codon usage. DNA sequences of RFLP variant 2 (associated with greatest OR for neoplasia) had a significantly greater usage of common mammalian codons compared with RFLP pattern 1 variants.


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