Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, have identified the receptor on human skin and mucosal cells that they believe allows papillomaviruses to attach to and infect those cells.
Human papillomaviruses are responsible for a variety of warts in humans, including skin, foot, laryngopharyngeal, and some types of genital warts. They are also considered to be a major risk factor for the development of certain types of cancer.
In the study, reported in the March issue of the Journal of Virology, researchers investigated the interaction of papillomavirus-like particles (VLPs) with two epithelial cell lines. Using a number of different assays, they found that alpha-6-integrin can interact with VLPs, suggesting that it may function as a cellular receptor for papillomaviruses.
Papillomavirus infects only skin and mucosal surfaces, and this restriction is thought to be mediated by interactions of the virus with host cell factors. In general, the first step in infection with a crystalline virus is attachment of the virus to a specific receptor on the surface of the susceptible host cell. Until now, the receptor for papillomavirus had yet to be found.
"Identification of a receptor for PV [papillomavirus] particles should lead to identification of residues on the PV particle that are critical for PV binding and uptake and may allow a rational approach to design of drugs to inhibit the process of PV infection," say the researchers.