Human papillomavirus E6 and E7 oncoproteins alter cell cycle progression but not radiosensitivity of carcinoma cells treated with low-dose-rate radiation

Theodore L. Deweese, Jonathan C. Walsh, Larry E. Dillehay, Theodore D. Kessis, Lora Hedrick, Kathleen R. Cho, William G. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Purpose: Low-dose-rate radiation therapy has been widely used in the treatment of urogenital malignancies. When continuously exposed to low-dose- rate ionizing radiation, target cancer cells typically exhibit abnormalities in replicative cell-cycle progression. Cancer cells that arrest in the G2 phase of the cell cycle when irradiated may become exquisitely sensitive to killing by further low-dose-rate radiation treatment. Oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which play a major role in the pathogenesis of uterine cervix cancers and other urogenital cancers, encode E6 and E7 transforming proteins known to abrogate a p53-dependent G1 cell-cycle checkpoint activated by conventional acute-dose radiation exposure. This study examined whether expression of HPV E6 and E7 oncoproteins by cancer cells alters the cell-cycle redistribution patterns accompanying low-dose- rate radiation treatment, and whether such alterations in cell-cycle redistribution affect cancer cell killing. Methods and Materials: RKO carcinoma cells, which contain wild-type P53 alleles, and RKO cell sublines genetically engineered to express HPV E6 and E7 oncoproteins, were treated with low-dose-rate (0.25-Gy/h) radiation and then assessed for p53 and p21WAF1/CIP1 polypeptide induction by immunoblot analysis, for cell-cycle redistribution by flow cytometry, and for cytotoxicity by clonogenic survival assay. Results: Low-dose-rate radiation of RKO carcinoma cells triggered p53 polypeptide elevations, p21WAF1/CIP1 induction, and arrest in the G1 and G2 phases of the cell cycle. In contrast, RKO cells expressing E6 and E7 transforming proteins from high-risk oncogenic HPVs (HPV 16) arrested in G2, but failed to arrest in G1, when treated with low-dose-rate ionizing radiation. Abrogation of the G1 cell-cycle checkpoint activated by low-dose- rate radiation exposure appeared to be a characteristic feature of transforming proteins from high-risk oncogenic HPVs: RKO cells expressing E6 from a low-risk nononcogenic HPV (HPV 11) exposed to low-dose-rate radiation arrested in both G1 and G2. Surprisingly, despite differences in cell-cycle redistribution accompanying low-dose-rate radiation treatment associated with high-risk HPV transforming protein expression, no consistent differences in clonogenic survival following low-dose-rate radiation treatment were found for RKO cell sublines expressing high-risk HPV oncoproteins and arresting only in G2 during low-dose-rate radiation exposure vs. RKO cell sublines exhibiting both G1 and G2 cell-cycle arrest when irradiated. Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that neither HPV oncoprotein expression nor loss of the radiation-activated G1 cell-cycle checkpoint alter the sensitivity of RKO carcinoma cell lines to low-dose-rate radiation exposure in vitro. Perhaps for urogenital malignancies associated with oncogenic HPVs in vivo, HPV oncoprotein-mediated abrogation of the G1 cell-cycle checkpoint may not limit the potential efficacy of low-dose-rate radiation therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-154
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • Cell cycle
  • Cell- cycle checkpoints
  • Human papillomaviruses (HPVs)
  • Low-dose-rate radiation
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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