The HPV-18 E7 CKII phospho acceptor site is required for maintaining the transformed phenotype of cervical tumour-derived cells

by Om Basukala, Suruchi Mittal, Paola Massimi, Marco Bestagno, Lawrence Banks

The Human Papillomavirus E7 oncoprotein plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of malignancy, which it achieves through targeting a number of critical cell control pathways. An important element in the ability of E7 to contribute towards cell transformation is the presence of a Casein Kinase II phospho-acceptor site within the CR2 domain of the protein. Phosphorylation is believed to enhance E7 interaction with a number of different cellular target proteins, and thereby increase the ability of E7 to enhance cell proliferation and induce malignancy. However, there is little information on how important this site in E7 is, once the tumour cells have become fully transformed. In this study, we have performed genome editing of the HPV-18 E7 CKII recognition site in C4-1 cervical tumour-derived cells. We first show that mutation of HPV18 E7 S32/S34 to A32/A34 abolishes CKII phosphorylation of E7, and subsequently we have isolated C4-1 clones containing these mutations in E7. The cells continue to proliferate, but are somewhat more slow-growing than wild type cells, reach lower saturation densities, and are also more susceptible to low nutrient conditions. These cells are severely defective in matrigel invasion assays, partly due to downregulation of matrix metalloproteases (MMPs). Mechanistically, we find that phosphorylation of E7 plays a direct role in the ability of E7 to activate AKT signaling, which in turn is required for optimal levels of MMP secretion. These results demonstrate that the E7 CKII phospho-acceptor site thus continues to play an important role for E7’s activity in cells derived from cervical cancers, and suggests that blocking this activity of E7 could be expected to have therapeutic potential.

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