The first papillomavirus was described in 1933 when Richard Shope recognized the cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) as the etiologic agent responsible for cutaneous papillomatosis in the cottontail rabbit. This group of viruses has remained refractory to standard virologic study because, until recently, a tissue culture system for the propagation of any papillomaviruses in the laboratory did not exist. It was not until the late 1970s, when the first papillomavirus genome was successfully cloned in bacteria, that investigators had reagents that were sufficiently standardized to begin a detailed analysis of the molecular biology of this group of viruses. In addition to standardizing reagents, the molecular cloning of the papillomavirus genomes provided adequate viral genetic material to permit the sequencing of the genomes of a number of papillomaviruses and to initiate a systematic mutational analysis and definition of the genes encoded by this group of viruses.
- Shope RE, Hurst EW. Infectious papillomatosis of rabbits; with a note on the histopathology. J Exp Med 1933;58:607-624.