Mastomys natalensis is a rodent of African origin afflicted with a very high incidence of skin tumors (keratoacanthomas and squamous carcinomas), which are associated with a papillomavirus, M. natalensis papillomavirus (MnPV). We have determined the genomic sequence of MnPV, which has a size of 7687 bp. The genomic organization is similar to that of other papillomaviruses, with open reading frames E6, E7, E1, E2, and E4 in the early and L2 and L1 in the late region. Due to an unusually large hinge region, the transcriptional activator E2 has a size of 542 amino acids rather than 400 to 460 amino acids, as in other papillomaviruses. An open reading frame E5 coding for a small hydrophobic membrane protein is missing, as is the case for some cutaneous human papillomaviruses (HPV). This fact, together with the composition of cis -responsive elements in its long control region and phylogenetic evaluation of segments of its E6, E1, and L1 genes, indicates a relationship of MnPV to the cottontail rabbit papillomavirus and several HPV types found in lesions of cutaneous epithelia, in particular to those that are associated with epidermodysplasia verruciformis. MnPV may be a useful model system for tumorigenesis of cutaneous epithelia in humans.
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