Specific Identification of Human Papillomavirus Type in Cervical Smears and Paraffin Sections by In Situ Hybridization with Radioactive Probes: A Preliminary Communication

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SummaryCervical Papanicolaou smears and paraffin sections of biopsy specimens obtained from women attending dysplasia clinics were examined for viral DNA sequences by in situ hybridization technique using 35S-labeled cloned recombinant DNA probes of human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11, and 16. These and one unrelated DNA probe complementary to measles virus RNA were labeled by nick translation using either one or two 35S-labeled nucleotides. The radiolabeled probes were reduced in size with DNase to 60–160 nucleotides. Paraffin sections and cervical smears were collected on pretreated slides, hybridized with the probes under stringent or nonstringent conditions for 50 h, and autoradiographed. Additional 'cervical specimens from the same women were examined for the presence of genus-specific papillomavirus capsid antigen by the immunoperoxidase technique. Preliminary results may be summarized as follows. The infecting virus could be identified in smears as well as in sections. Viral DNA sequences were detected only when there were condylomatous cells in the specimen and in only a proportion of the condylomatous cells. Even under stringent conditions, some specimens reacted with both HPV-6 and HPV-11. None of the specimens hybridized with HPV-16 or with the unrelated probe. In some instances, the cells did not hybridize with any of the three probes even when duplicate specimens contained frankly condylomatous, capsid antigen-positive cells. In situ hybridization of Papanicolaou smears or of tissue sections is a practical method for diagnosis and follow-up of specific papillomavirus infection using routinely collected material.

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