The human papillomavirus type 11 (HPV-11) E7 protein can modulate host cell functions and is required for papilloma formation, but little is known concerning the regulation of its expression. This study was designed to determine whether the viral upstream regulatory region controlled expression from the E7 promoter and whether cis sequences differentially regulated E6 and E7 expression in laryngeal mucosal keratinocytes, the natural target cells for this virus. Reporter constructs were designed to study expression of the luciferase gene from the HPV-11 E7 promoter in its natural position downstream of a functional E6 promoter. E7 expression, like E6 expression, required upstream regulatory sequences. However, E7 expression was less sensitive to repression by vital E2 protein and to mutation of the Spl binding site adjacent to the E2 binding site. Moreover, there was differential sensitivity of the two promoters to mutation of the E6 TATA box, with E7 expression more affected than E6 expression. These findings show that, in the normal host cells for this virus, the E6 and E7 promoters can be independently regulated by the cis regulatory region adjacent to the E6 promoter.
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