Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is an insidious disease caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. It is characterized by a variable clinical course that can include frequent disease recurrence, significant morbidity, and occasional mortality. The mechanisms responsible for the variability in the clinical course and the persistence of latent HPV infection remain unknown. Effective T-cell-mediated clearance of HPV-infected cells may be defective in patients with RRP, leading to recurrent disease and failure to suppress latent HPV reactivation. This study describes the down-regulation of the transporter associated with antigen presentation (TAP-1) and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I protein expression in laryngeal papilloma tissue biopsies and cell culture of primary explants. There was a statistically significant correlation between reduction of TAP-1 expression in biopsy tissues and rapid recurrence of disease. Patients with RRP had less frequent recurrence if their papillomas expressed TAP-1 at levels close to that of normal tissue, compared with those with very low expression of TAP-1, who had frequent recurrence (32 versus 5 weeks to the next surgical intervention). These findings suggest that HPV may evade immune recognition by down-regulating class I MHC cell surface expression via decreased TAP-1 levels. Expression of TAP-1 could be used for prognostic evaluation of disease severity. Gamma interferon was able to restore class I MHC expression at the surfaces of laryngeal papilloma cells in culture. This up-regulation of class I MHC antigen at the cell surface potentially allows the infected cell to become a target for the immune system again. This finding provides some promise for nonsurgical treatment of laryngeal papillomas
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