Persistent infections with a high-risk type human papillomavirus (hrHPV) can progress to cancer. High-risk HPVs infect keratinocytes (KCs) and successfully suppress host immunity for up to two years despite the fact that KCs are well equipped to detect and initiate immune responses to invading pathogens. Viral persistence is achieved by active interference with KCs innate and adaptive immune mechanisms. To this end hrHPV utilizes proteins encoded by its viral genome, as well as exploits cellular proteins to interfere with signaling of innate and adaptive immune pathways. This results in impairment of interferon and pro-inflammatory cytokine production and subsequent immune cell attraction, as well as resistance to incoming signals from the immune system. Furthermore, hrHPV avoids the killing of infected cells by interfering with antigen presentation to antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Thus, hrHPV has evolved multiple mechanisms to avoid detection and clearance by both the innate and adaptive immune system, the molecular mechanisms of which will be dealt with in detail in this review.
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