The HPV E6 oncoprotein targets histone methyltransferases for modulating specific gene transcription

C. H. Hsu, K. L. Peng, H. C. Jhang, C. H. Lin, S. Y. Wu, C. M. Chiang, S. C. Lee, W. C Y Yu, L. J. Juan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Expression of viral proteins causes important epigenetic changes leading to abnormal cell growth. Whether viral proteins directly target histone methyltransferases (HMTs), a key family enzyme for epigenetic regulation, and modulate their enzymatic activities remains elusive. Here we show that the E6 proteins of both low-risk and high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) interact with three coactivator HMTs, CARM1, PRMT1 and SET7, and downregulate their enzymatic activities in vitro and in HPV-transformed HeLa cells. Furthermore, these three HMTs are required for E6 to attenuate p53 transactivation function. Mechanistically, E6 hampers CARM1-and PRMT1-catalyzed histone methylation at p53-responsive promoters, and suppresses the binding of p53 to chromatinized DNA independently of E6-mediated p53 degradation. p53 pre-methylated at lysine-372 (p53K372 mono-methylation) by SET7 protects p53 from E6-induced degradation. Consistently, E6 downregulates p53K372 mono-methylation and thus reduces p53 protein stability. As a result of the E6-mediated inhibition of HMT activity, expression of p53 downstream genes is suppressed. Together, our results not only reveal a clever approach for the virus to interfere with p53 function, but also demonstrate the modulation of HMT activity as a novel mechanism of epigenetic regulation by a viral oncoprotein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2335-2349
Number of pages15
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 3 2012


  • E6
  • HMT
  • HPV
  • chromatin
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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