Human papillomavirus oncogenic E6 protein regulates human β-defensin 3 (hBD3) expression via the tumor suppressor protein p53

Twishasri DasGupta, Emeka I. Nweze, Hong Yue, Liming Wang, Jessica Jin, Santosh K. Ghosh, Hameem I. Kawsar, Chad Zender, Elliot J. Androphy, Aaron Weinberg, Thomas S. McCormick, Ge Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Human β-defensin-3 (hBD3) is an epithelial cell-derived innate immune regulatory molecule overexpressed in oral dysplastic lesions and fosters a tumorpromoting microenvironment. Expression of hBD3 is induced by the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway. Here we describe a novel pathway through which the high-risk human papillomavirus type-16 (HPV-16) oncoprotein E6 induces hBD3 expression in mucosal keratinocytes. Ablation of E6 by siRNA induces the tumor suppressor p53 and diminishes hBD3 in HPV-16 positive CaSki cervical cancer cells and UM-SCC-104 head and neck cancer cells. Malignant cells in HPV-16-associated oropharyngeal cancer overexpress hBD3. HPV-16 E6 induces hBD3 mRNA expression, peptide production and gene promoter activity in mucosal keratinocytes. Reduction of cellular levels of p53 stimulates hBD3 expression, while activation of p53 by doxorubicin inhibits its expression in primary oral keratinocytes and CaSki cells, suggesting that p53 represses hBD3 expression. A p53 binding site in the hBD3 gene promoter has been identified by using electrophoretic mobility shift assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). In addition, the p63 protein isoform ΔNp63α, but not TAp63, stimulated transactivation of the hBD3 gene and was coexpressed with hBD3 in head and neck cancer specimens. Therefore, high-risk HPV E6 oncoproteins may stimulate hBD3 expression in tumor cells to facilitate tumorigenesis of HPV-associated head and neck cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27430-27444
Number of pages15
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2016



  • Head and neck cancer
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Human β-defensins
  • Microenvironment
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

Cite this

DasGupta, T., Nweze, E. I., Yue, H., Wang, L., Jin, J., Ghosh, S. K., Kawsar, H. I., Zender, C., Androphy, E. J., Weinberg, A., McCormick, T. S., & Jin, G. (2016). Human papillomavirus oncogenic E6 protein regulates human β-defensin 3 (hBD3) expression via the tumor suppressor protein p53. Oncotarget, 7(19), 27430-27444.