Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States and has been identified as a primary cause of cervical cancer in women. Now, an international team of researchers led by scientists from the University of Missouri has completed studies on fruit flies with a condition that mimics a form of HPV-induced cancer. The fly models the team developed may help scientists to understand the underlying mechanism by which this virus can cause cancer, as well as to identify potential drug treatments. The study was published online on August 18, 2016 in the open-access publication PLOS Pathogens. The article is titled “"A Drosophila Model of HPV E6-1 Induced Malignancy Reveals Essential Roles for Magi and the Insulin Receptor.” “This is the first model of an HPV-induced cancer in fruit flies," said Bing Zhang, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "This new model will help scientists understand the molecular and biochemical pathways involved in tumor growth and malignancy caused by HPV, as well as screen for potential drug targets." Previous studies conducted in human cells and in mice have shown that the HPV enters the body through the skin and produces several oncoproteins, which are proteins that can transform a normal cell into a tumor cell. One of these viral oncoproteins, called E6, plays an important role during the later stages of tumor formation and metastasis. In the study, led by Mojgan Padash, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri, the researchers introduced the viral E6 oncoprotein, and a human protein that is necessary for E6-induced cancer, into fruit flies. The proteins caused severe abnormalities in the epithelial, or skin, cells of the fruit flies.
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