APOBEC is a mutagenic source in human papillomavirus (HPV)-mediated malignancies, including HPV+ oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPV + OPSCC), and in HPV genomes. It is unknown why APOBEC mutations predominate in HPV + OPSCC, or if the APOBEC-induced mutations observed in both human cancers and HPV genomes are directly linked. We performed sequencing of host somatic exomes, transcriptomes, and HPV16 genomes from 79 HPV + OPSCC samples, quantifying APOBEC mutational burden and activity in both host and virus. APOBEC was the dominant mutational signature in somatic exomes. In viral genomes, there was a mean of five (range 0–29) mutations per genome. The mean of APOBEC mutations in viral genomes was one (range 0–5). Viral APOBEC mutations, compared to non-APOBEC mutations, were more likely to be low-variant allele fraction mutations, suggesting that APOBEC mutagenesis actively occurrs in viral genomes during infection. HPV16 APOBEC-induced mutation patterns in OPSCC were similar to those previously observed in cervical samples. Paired host and viral analyses revealed that APOBEC-enriched tumor samples had higher viral APOBEC mutation rates (p = 0.028), and APOBEC-associated RNA editing (p = 0.008), supporting the concept that APOBEC mutagenesis in host and viral genomes is directly linked and occurrs during infection. Using paired sequencing of host somatic exomes, transcriptomes, and viral genomes, we demonstrated for the first-time definitive evidence of concordance between tumor and viral APOBEC mutagenesis. This finding provides a missing link connecting APOBEC mutagenesis in host and virus and supports a common mechanism driving APOBEC dysregulation.

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Published in Viruses, v. 13, issue 8, 1666.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was funded by DLF (sundry).

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

The following are available online at https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/v13081666/s1, Figure S1: Mutational signatures ordered by APOBEC contribution, Figure S2: Expected vs. actual nonsynonymous/synonymous ratio for APOBEC and non-APOBEC mutations by viral gene. Table S1: HPV E2 APOBEC Mutations.

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