Recent phylogenic studies indicate that DNA recombination could have occurred in ancient papillomavirus types. However, no experimental data are available to demonstrate this event because of the lack of human papillomavirus infection models. We have used the cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV)/rabbit model to study pathogenesis and immunogenicity of different mutant genomes in vivo. Although the domestic rabbit is not a natural host for CRPV infection, it is possible to initiate infection with naked CRPV DNA cloned into a plasmid and monitor papilloma outgrowth on these animals. Taking advantage of a large panel of mutants based on a CRPV strain (Hershey CRPV), we tested the hypothesis that two non-viable mutant genomes could induce papillomas by either recombination or complementation. We found that co-infection with a dysfunctional mutant with an E2 transactivation domain mutation and another mutant with an E7 ATG knock out generated papillomas in rabbits. DNA extracted from these papillomas contained genotypes from both parental genomes. Three additional pairs of dysfunctional mutants also showed similar results. Individual wild type genes were also shown to rescue the function of corresponding dysfunctional mutants. Therefore, we suggest that complementation occurred between these two non-viable mutant PV genomes in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-122
Number of pages6
JournalVirus Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Cancer Research
  • Virology


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