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Human papillomavirus type 16 E5 protein (HPV-16 E5) is expressed early in papillomavirus infection and is localised primarily in the cell Golgi apparatus (GA) and endoplasmic reticulum. E5 prevents transport of the major histocompatibility class I (MHC I; HLA class I in humans) to the cell surface and retains the complex in the GA. We report that these effects are due, at least in part, to the interaction between E5 and HLA I heavy chain (HC). We also demonstrate that the down-regulation of surface HLA I and interaction with HC are mediated by the first hydrophobic domain of E5. Although E5 downregulates classical HLA selectively as it does not downregulate non-classical HLA, the interaction with the HC of classical HLA I is not specific for a particular haplotype of HLA I. This suggests that E5 can interfere with antigen presentation by most, if not all, classical HLA I haplotypes, with potentially serious consequences as the ability of infected cells to present antigenic peptides to effector T cells would be compromised.