• human papillomavirus 16;
  • sequence variation;
  • physical state


Sequence diversity over 2600 nucleotides of the upstream regulatory region (URR) and the E6 and E2/E4 genes of 34 human papillomavirus (HPV)16 cervical cancer isolates from Australia and New Caledonia was investigated. One 81 base duplication, 41 single base substitutions and 1 single base insertion were identified in the URRs. Some of these changes are reported here for the first time. Several of the 19 changes impacting transcription factor binding sites had the potential to alter promoter activity. Twenty-eight (82%) of the variants belonged to the European lineage, 4 (12%) were Asian and 2 (6%) were Asian-American. Eighteen of 27 (67%) isolates where the E6 gene was examined contained amino acid substitutions. Of 13 isolates sequenced with intact E2 genes, 12 (92%) contained amino acid substitutions in the E2 protein and 3 (23%) amino acid substitutions in the overlapping E4 protein. Some of the changes in E6 and E2 may alter immunological epitopes or protein function. The physical state of HPV DNA was assessed by Southern hybridization and PCR for an intact E2 gene. Overall, 11 of 25 isolates contained only integrated HPV DNA, 10 only episomal HPV DNA and 4 both integrated and episomal DNA. No particular patterns of variation in the URR, E6 or E2/E4 genes predicted physical state. This investigation represents one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind and fills an important gap in global sequence data. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.