Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNAs are detected in approximately 90% of anogenital carcinomas. To assess directly the effect of HPV on squamous differentiation, normal human cervical and foreskin epithelial cells and cells immortalized by recombinant HPV DNAs were transplanted beneath a skin-muscle flap in athymic mice. Xenografts containing normal cells formed well-differentiated stratified squamous epithelia 2 to 3 weeks after transplantation, but cell lines immortalized by four HPV types (HPV16, HPV18, HPV31, and HPV33) detected in anogenital cancer exhibited dysplastic morphology and molecular alterations in gene expression characteristic of intraepithelial neoplasia. Morphological alterations were accompanied by delayed commitment to terminal differentiation, alterations in the pattern of involucrin expression, and reductions in levels of involucrin and keratin 1 RNAs. HPV18-immortalized cells developed dysplastic changes more rapidly than cells immortalized by HPV16 DNA. These results show that human genital epithelial cells immortalized by HPV DNAs detected in genital cancers undergo dysplastic differentiation in vivo.

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The investigation was supported in part by Grant CA43629 awarded to M. H. S. by the USPHS and Grant 88-130 awarded to W. B. by the American Cancer Society.

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