Human papillomavirus genome integration in squamous carcinogenesis: what have next-generation sequencing studies taught us?

16 Jul 2018

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is associated with ∼5% of all human cancers, including a range of squamous cell carcinomas. Persistent infection by high-risk HPVs (HRHPVs) is associated with the integration of virus genomes (which are usually stably maintained as extrachromosomal episomes) into host chromosomes. Although HRHPV integration rates differ across human sites of infection, this process appears to be an important event in HPV-associated neoplastic progression, leading to deregulation of virus oncogene expression, host gene expression modulation, and further genomic instability. However, the mechanisms by which HRHPV integration occur and by which the subsequent gene expression changes take place are incompletely understood. The advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) of both RNA and DNA has allowed powerful interrogation of the association of HRHPVs with human disease, including precise determination of the sites of integration and the genomic rearrangements at integration loci. In turn, these data have indicated that integration occurs through two main mechanisms: looping integration and direct insertion. Improved understanding of integration sites is allowing further investigation of the factors that provide a competitive advantage to some integrants during disease progression. Furthermore, advanced approaches to the generation of genome-wide samples have given novel insights into the three-dimensional interactions within the nucleus, which could act as another layer of epigenetic control of both virus and host transcription. It is hoped that further advances in NGS techniques and analysis will not only allow the examination of further unanswered questions regarding HPV infection, but also direct new approaches to treating HPV-associated human disease. Copyright © 2018 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.