Research Article

Langerhans' cells and subtypes of human papillomavirus in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 10 September 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:643
  1. R. J. Hawthorn,
  2. J. B. Murdoch,
  3. A. B. MacLean,
  4. R. M. MacKie
  1. Department of Midwifery, Queen Mother's Hospital, Glasgow.


    There is strong circumstantial evidence that human papillomavirus is a cofactor in the development of cervical neoplasia. Systemic immunosuppression has also been implicated. A study was therefore carried out examining the relation between subtypes of human papillomavirus and local immunocompetent cells in the cervix. Colposcopically directed punch biopsy specimens were taken from normal cervix and from histologically proved cervical intraepithelial neoplasia for immunohistochemical studies. Human papillomavirus genome probing was performed on the abnormal specimens. A relation was apparent between decreased Langerhans' cells and moderate to high copy numbers of human papillomavirus type 16. The reduction in Langerhans' cells was significant for human papillomavirus type 18 even at low copy numbers. Conversely, the absence of human papillomavirus was associated with increased numbers of Langerhans' cells in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. These findings suggest that the proposed oncogenic potential of human papillomavirus type 16 and human papillomavirus type 18 in particular may be mediated by a specific effect on the afferent limb of the immune response.