Human alpha and beta papillomaviruses use different synonymous codon profiles

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Human papillomaviruses use rare codons relative to their hosts. It has been theorized that this is a mechanism to allow the virus to escape immune surveillance. In the present study, we examined the codings of four major genes of 21 human alpha (mucosatropic) viruses and 16 human beta (cutaneous-tropic) viruses. We compared the codon usage of different genes from a given papillomavirus and also the same genes from different papillomaviruses. Our data showed that codon usage was not always uniform between two genes of a given papillomavirus or between the same genes of papillomaviruses from different genera. We speculate as to why this might be and conclude that codon usage in the papillomaviruses may not only play a role in facilitating escape from immune surveillance but may also underlie some of the unanswered questions in the papillomavirus field.

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