The most abundant viral mRNA species in tissues infected with HPV 11 consists of two exons, joining a short segment of open reading frame (ORF) E1 to ORF E4, potentially encoding an E1^E4 protein of 10 kDa. E4 gene products have previously been identified by immunohistochemistry in human tissues infected with HPV 1 and HPV 16, and in HPV 11-infected raft cultures. The E1^E4 mRNA is produced in abundance in HPV 11-infected human foreskin implants grown in athymic mice. In contrast, the L1 mRNA is present at low levels and appears late in the course of infection. To characterize the relationship of these proteins, polyclonal rabbit antisera were produced against bacterially expressed HPV 11 trpE/E1^E4 and trpE/L1 fusion proteins and tested in an immunohistochemical assay of paraffin-embedded sections of HPV 11-infected human foreskin tissue fixed with 10% buffered formalin phosphate or zinc formalin. In sections fixed with either fixative, the anti-L1 serum stained nuclei of cells in the upper spinous and granular layers. In contrast, the anti-E1^E4 serum stained the cell membrane and, to a lesser degree, the cytoplasm of cells in the upper spinous and granular layers of tissue fixed with zinc formalin, but not 10% buffered formalin phosphate. In sections treated with both the E1^E4 and L1 antisera, cell membrane staining occurred in the same cells that exhibited nuclear staining The HPV 11 E1^E4 protein appears to be a cell membrane-associated protein. Expression of the HPV 11 E1^E4 and L1 proteins may be influenced by similar factors in differentiating cells.
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