Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Avian papillomaviruses: the parrot Psittacus erithacus papillomavirus (PePV) genome has a unique organization of the early protein region and is phylogenetically related to the chaffinch papillomavirus

Ruth Tachezy1, Annabel Rector2, Marta Havelkova1, Elke Wollants2, Pierre Fiten2, Ghislain Opdenakker2, A Bennett Jenson3, John P Sundberg4 and Marc Van Ranst2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Experimental Virology, Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, U Nemocnice 1, 128 22 Prague, Czech Republic

2 Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, and Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, University of Leuven, Belgium

3 Cervical Cancer Research Institute, The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Foundation, 4818 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA

4 The Jackson Laboratory, 600 Main Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2002, 2:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-2-19

Published: 10 July 2002



An avian papillomavirus genome has been cloned from a cutaneous exophytic papilloma from an African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus). The nucleotide sequence, genome organization, and phylogenetic position of the Psittacus erithacus papillomavirus (PePV) were determined. This PePV sequence represents the first complete avian papillomavirus genome defined.


The PePV genome (7304 basepairs) differs from other papillomaviruses, in that it has a unique organization of the early protein region lacking classical E6 and E7 open reading frames. Phylogenetic comparison of the PePV sequence with partial E1 and L1 sequences of the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) papillomavirus (FPV) reveals that these two avian papillomaviruses form a monophyletic cluster with a common branch that originates near the unresolved center of the papillomavirus evolutionary tree.


The PePV genome has a unique layout of the early protein region which represents a novel prototypic genomic organization for avian papillomaviruses. The close relationship between PePV and FPV, and between their Psittaciformes and Passeriformes hosts, supports the hypothesis that papillomaviruses have co-evolved and speciated together with their host species throughout evolution.