Papillomaviruses are infectious agents for human and animal epithelial tissue, and nearly 100 distinct human types (HPVs) have been identified. When these viruses infect cutaneous or mucosal skin they can initially cause clinical warts or persistent infection with little or no visible manifestations. Warts, while usually benign, can be painful or cosmetically unacceptable and often require medical treatment. Furthermore, infection with certain specific HPV types, such as 16 or 18 (as well as several others), is the major risk factor for a womans development of cervical cancer. In addition to cervical cancer, papillomaviruses have also been implicated in cancers of the skin and respiratory track though the evidence is not yet as conclusive. It is clear that prevention or elimination of papillomavirus infections would ultimately reduce the incidence of cervical cancer and possibly other epithelial cancers as well. Unfortunately, progress in vaccine development has been slow and no specific anti-papillomavirus agents are available. The rational development of effective anti-papillomaviral treatments will require a detailed understanding of how these viruses replicate and interact with the host cell, and much progress has been made in this area over the last 10 years. These viruses have small DNA genomes with limited coding capacity, and their complete array of viral protein products is known. This review will discuss the known functions of the viral proteins with a focus on strategies to interdict their biological activities as a possible means of specific therapy.
Keywords: human papillomavirus, replication, transformation, warts, cervical cancer
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