HPV16 activates the AIM2 inflammasome in keratinocytes

M Reinholz, Y Kawakami, S Salzer, A Kreuter, Y Dombrowski, S Koglin, S Kresse, T Ruzicka, J Schauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are double-stranded DNA viruses, which selectively infect keratinocytes in stratified epithelia. After an initial infection, many patients clear HPV. In some patients, however, HPV persist, and dysfunctional innate immune responses to HPV infection could be involved in the ineffective clearing of these viruses. In this study, the mechanisms of HPV-induced immune responses in keratinocytes were investigated. Binding of viral DNA leads to AIM2 inflammasome activation and IL-1β release, while IFI16 activation results in IFN-β release. Using immunohistochemistry, AIM2 and IFI16-two recently identified sensors for cytosolic DNA-were also detected in HPV positive skin lesions. CISH stainings further confirmed the presence of cytosolic HPV16 DNA in biopsy samples. Moreover, active IL-1β and cleaved caspase-1 were detected in HPV infected skin, suggesting inflammasome activation by viral DNA. In subsequent functional studies, HPV16 DNA triggered IL-1β and IL-18 release via the AIM2 inflammasome in normal human keratinocytes. Although HPV DNA did not induce IFN-β in keratinocytes, IFN-β secretion was observed when AIM2 was blocked. Meanwhile, blocking of IFI16 increased HPV16 DNA-induced IL-1β, but not IL-18, secretion. These findings suggest crosstalk between IFI16 and AIM2 in the immune response to HPV DNA. In sum, novel aspects concerning HPV-induced innate immune responses were identified. Eventually, understanding the mechanisms of HPV-induced inflammasome activation could lead to the development of novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of HPV infections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-32
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Dermatological Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Carcinoma in Situ
  • Caspase 1
  • Cell Line
  • DNA, Viral
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Human papillomavirus 16
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes
  • Inflammation
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interleukin-18
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Keratinocytes
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Skin


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