Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) induces rabbit skin papillomas, which progress to invasive carcinoma in some animals. Two early genes, E7 and E6, have been demonstrated previously to be oncogenes. In this study, we identified two additional transforming genes, E8 and E5. Both E8 and E5 stimulated C127 and BALB/c A31 (A31) cell proliferation and affected cell cycle transition. The E8 and E5 transfectants lost cell contact inhibition, reaching a high saturation density when cultured up to 2 weeks. E8-C127 transfectants formed colonies in soft agar in the presence of platelet- derived growth factor (PDGF) while E5-C127 transfectants formed colonies without the requirement for PDGF. E8-C127 transfectants were highly tumorigenic whereas E5-C127 transfectants showed a weak tumorigenicity in nude mice. Both E8 and E5 A31 transfectants failed to form colonies in soft agar even in the presence of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and did not develop tumors in nude mice. These results clearly showed that CRPVE8 and E5 are oncogenes and that the PDGF β-receptor signaling pathway may be involved in E8-mediated C127 cell transformation. The difference in colony formation in soft agar and tumorigenicity in nude mice between C127 and A31 cell lines indicates that additional alterations in cellular gene expression are needed for E5- and E8-transfected cells to acquire a malignant phenotype.
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