Research Papers:

Direct HPV E6/Myc interactions induce histone modifications, Pol II phosphorylation, and hTERT promoter activation

Yiyu Zhang, Aleksandra Dakic, Renxiang Chen, Yuhai Dai, Richard Schlegel and Xuefeng Liu _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:96323-96339. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.22036

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Yiyu Zhang1,*, Aleksandra Dakic1,*, Renxiang Chen1, Yuhai Dai1, Richard Schlegel1 and Xuefeng Liu1

1Department of Pathology, Center for Cell Reprogramming, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Xuefeng Liu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: telomerase; papillomaviruses; oncoproteins; histones; RNA polymerase II

Received: August 06, 2017    Accepted: September 15, 2017    Published: October 25, 2017


Human Papillomavirus Viruses (HPVs) are associated with the majority of human cervical and anal cancers and 10-30% of head and neck squamous carcinomas. E6 oncoprotein from high risk HPVs interacts with the p53 tumor suppressor protein to facilitate its degradation and increases telomerase activity for extending the life span of host cells. We published previously that the Myc cellular transcription factor associates with the high-risk HPV E6 protein in vivo and participates in the transactivation of the hTERT promoter. In the present study, we further analyzed the role of E6 and the Myc-Max-Mad network in regulating the hTERT promoter. We confirmed that E6 and Myc interact independently and that Max can also form a complex with E6. However, the E6/Max complex is observed only in the presence of Myc, suggesting that E6 associates with Myc/Max dimers. Consistent with the hypothesis that Myc is required for E6 induction of the hTERT promoter, Myc antagonists (Mad or Mnt) significantly blocked E6-mediated transactivation of the hTERT promoter. Analysis of Myc mutants demonstrated that both the transactivation domain and HLH domain of Myc protein were required for binding E6 and for the consequent transactivation of the hTERT promoter, by either Myc or E6. We also showed that E6 increased phosphorylation of Pol II on the hTERT promoter and induced epigenetic histone modifications of the hTERT promoter. More important, knockdown of Myc expression dramatically decreased engagement of acetyl-histones and Pol II at the hTERT promoter in E6-expressing cells. Thus, E6/Myc interaction triggers the transactivation of the hTERT promoter by modulating both histone modifications, Pol II phosphorylation and promoter engagement, suggesting a novel mechanism for telomerase activation and a new target for HPV- associated human cancer.

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