YAP1 activation by human papillomavirus E7 promotes basal cell identity in squamous epithelia


Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center


Persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of stratified squamous epithelial cells causes nearly five percent of cancer cases worldwide. HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers harbor few mutations in the Hippo signaling pathway compared to HPV-negative cancers at the same anatomical site, prompting the hypothesis that an HPV-encoded protein inactivates the Hippo pathway and activates the Hippo effector YAP1. The HPV E7 oncoprotein is required for HPV infection and for HPV-mediated oncogenic transformation. We investigated the effects of HPV oncoproteins on YAP1 and found that E7 activates YAP1, promoting YAP1 nuclear localization in basal epithelial cells. YAP1 activation by HPV E7 required that E7 bind and degrade the tumor suppressor PTPN14. E7 required YAP1 transcriptional activity to extend the lifespan of primary keratinocytes, indicating that YAP1 activation contributes to E7 carcinogenic activity. Maintaining infection in basal cells is critical for HPV persistence, and here we demonstrate that YAP1 activation causes HPV E7 expressing cells to be retained in the basal compartment of stratified epithelia. We propose that YAP1 activation resulting from PTPN14 inactivation is an essential, targetable activity of the HPV E7 oncoprotein relevant to HPV infection and carcinogenesis.

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