Modelling human papillomavirus biology in oropharyngeal keratinocytes

Sally Roberts, Dhananjay Evans, Hesham Mehanna, Joanna Parish

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Most human papillomavirus (HPV) positive head and neck cancers arise in the tonsil crypts; deep invaginations at the tonsil surface that are lined with reticulated epithelium infiltrated by immune cells. As in cervical HPV infections, HPV16 is the most prevalent high-risk type in the oropharyngeal cancers, and a genital-oral route of infection is most likely. However, the natural history of HPV-driven oropharyngeal pathogenesis is an enigma, although there is evidence that it is different to that of cervical disease. It is not known if the virus establishes a productive or abortive infection in keratinocytes of the tonsil crypt, or if viral infections progress to cancer via a neoplastic phase, as in cervical HPV infection. The HPV DNA is more frequently found unintegrated in the cancers of the oropharynx compared to those that arise in the cervix, and may include novel HPV-human DNA hybrids episomes. Here, we review current understanding of HPV biology in the oropharynx and discuss the cell-based systems being used to model the HPV life cycle in tonsil keratinocytes and how they can be used to inform on HPV-driven neoplastic progression in the oropharynx. This article is part of the theme issue 'Silent cancer agents: multidisciplinary modelling of human DNA oncoviruses'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180289
JournalRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1773
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Cite this as: Roberts S, Evans D, Mehanna H, Parish JL. 2019 Modelling human papillomavirus biology in oropharyngeal keratinocytes. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 374:


  • Head and neck cancer
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Human papillomavirus life cycle
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Tonsil keratinocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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