Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) tumor viruses that are causally associated with human cancers of the anogenital tract, skin, and oral cavity. Despite the availability of prophylactic vaccines, HPVs remain a major global health issue due to inadequate vaccine availability and vaccination coverage. The HPV life cycle is established and completed in the terminally differentiating stratified epithelia, and decades of research using in vitro organotypic raft cultures and in vivo genetically engineered mouse models have contributed to our understanding of the interactions between HPVs and the epithelium. More recently, important and emerging roles for the underlying stroma, or microenvironment, during the HPV life cycle and HPV-induced disease have become clear. This review discusses the current understanding of the bidirectional communication and relationship between HPV-infected epithelia and the surrounding microenvironment. As is the case with other human cancers, evidence suggests that the stroma functions as a significant partner in tumorigenesis and helps facilitate the oncogenic potential of HPVs in the stratified epithelium.
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