Repression of the human papillomavirus E6 gene initiates p53-dependent, telomerase-independent senescence and apoptosis in HeLa cervical carcinoma cells.
Cervical cancer cells express high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) E6 and E7 proteins. When both HPV oncogenes are repressed in HeLa cervical carcinoma cells, the dormant p53 and retinoblastoma (Rb) tumor suppressor pathways are activated, and the cells undergo senescence in the absence of apoptosis. When the E6 gene is repressed in cells that continue to express an E7 gene, the p53 pathway, but not the Rb pathway, is activated, and both senescence and apoptosis are triggered. To determine the role of p53 signaling in senescence or apoptosis after repression of HPV oncogenes, we introduced a dominant-negative allele of p53 into HeLa cells. Dominant-negative p53 prevented senescence and apoptosis when E6 alone was repressed but did not inhibit senescence when both E6 and E7 were repressed. To determine whether reduced telomerase activity was involved in senescence or apoptosis after E6 repression, we generated HeLa cells stably expressing an exogenous hTERT gene, which encodes the catalytic subunit of telomerase. Although these cells contained markedly elevated telomerase activity and elongated telomeres, hTERT expression did not prevent senescence and apoptosis when E6 alone was repressed. These results demonstrate that when the Rb tumor suppressor pathway is inactivated by the E7 protein, E6 repression activates p53 signaling, which in turn is required for growth inhibition, senescence, and apoptosis. Thus, sustained inactivation of the p53 pathway by the E6 protein is required for maintenance of the proliferative phenotype of HeLa cervical carcinoma cells.
Horner, SM; DeFilippis, RA; Manuelidis, L; DiMaio, D
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