Evolutionary and biophysical relationships among the papillomavirus E2 proteins

Dukagjin M. Blakaj, Narcis Fernandez-Fuentes, Zigui Chen, Rashmi Hegde, Andras Fiser, Robert D. Burk, Michael Brenowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Infection by a human papillomavirus (HPV) may result in a variety of clinical conditions ranging from benign warts to invasive cancer depending on the viral type. The HPV E2 protein represses transcription of the E6 and E7 genes in integrated papillomavirus genomes and together with the E1 protein is required for viral replication. E2 proteins bind with high affinity to palindromic DNA sequences consisting of two highly conserved four base pair sequences flanking a variable 'spacer' of identical length. The E2 proteins directly contact the conserved DNA but not the spacer DNA. However, variation in naturally occurring spacer sequences results in differential protein binding affinity. This discrimination in binding is dependent on their sensitivity to the unique conformational and/or dynamic properties of the spacer DNA in a process termed 'indirect readout'. This article explores the structure of the E2 proteins and their interaction with DNA and other proteins, the effects of ions on affinity and specificity, and the phylogenetic and biophysical nature of this core viral protein. We have analyzed the sequence conservation and electrostatic features of three-dimensional models of the DNA binding domains of 146 papillomavirus types and variants with the goal of identifying characteristics that associated with risk of virally caused malignancy. The amino acid sequence, three-dimensional structure, and the electrostatic features of E2 protein DNA binding domain showed high conservation among all papillomavirus types. This indicates that the specific interactions between the E2 protein and its binding sites on DNA have been conserved throughout PV evolution. Analysis of the E2 protein's transactivation domain showed that unlike the DNA binding domain, the transactivation domain does not have extensive surfaces of highly conserved residues. Rather, the regions of high conservation are localized to small surface patches. The invariance of the E2 DNA binding domain structure, electrostatics and sequence suggests that it may be a suitable target for the development of vaccines effective against a broad spectrum of HPV types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-917
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Bioscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • DNA
  • E2
  • Electrostatics
  • Papillomavirus
  • Protein-DNA interactions
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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