Several human papillomaviruses (HPV) are associated with the development of cervical carcinoma. HPV DNA synthesis is increased during the differentiation of infected host keratinocytes as they migrate from the basal layer of the epithelium to the spinous layer, but the molecular mechanism is unclear. Nucleosome positioning affects various cellular processes such as DNA replication and repair by permitting the access of transcription factors to promoters to initiate transcription. In this study, nucleosome positioning on virus chromatin was investigated in normal immortalized keratinocytes (NIKS) stably transfected with HPV16 or HPV18 genomes to determine if there is an association with the viral life cycle. Micrococcal nuclease-treated DNA analyzed by Southern blotting using probes against HPV16 and HPV18 and quantified by nucleosome scanning analysis using real-time PCR revealed mononucleosomal-sized fragments of 140–200 base pairs that varied in their location within the viral genome according to whether the cells were undergoing proliferation or differentiation. Notably, changes in the regions around nucleotide 110 in proliferating and differentiating host cells were common to HPV16 and HPV18. Our findings suggest that changes in nucleosome positions on viral DNA during host cell differentiation is an important regulatory event in the viral life cycle.
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