Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) E7 is a viral oncoprotein that is believed to play a major role in cervical neoplasia. Anti-HPV16 E7 intracellular single-chain antibodies (scFvs) were constructed to down- regulate HPV16 E7 oncoprotein in HPV DNA-containing cell lines. In these studies, we transfected anti-E7 scFvs into the HPV16-positive human cervical carcinoma cell lines CaSki and SiHa and tested them for their ability to inhibit cell proliferation and alter the level of HPV16 E7 oncoprotein. Our results showed that anti-HPV16 E7 scFvs inhibited cell proliferation by >85% in CaSki cells and by 95% in SiHa cells. E7 oncoprotein was down-regulated by anti-HPV16 E7 scFv, and its expression was inversely related to the amount of scFv transfected. However, there were no effects of transfecting scFvs alone in HPV-negative cell lines. These results imply that anti-HPV16 E7 scFvs only have specific anti-HPV16 E7 effects on cell proliferation and on the synthesis of virally encoded proteins in HPV-positive cell lines. Thus, transfection of HPV16 E7-positive tumors with antigen-specific scFvs may be a viable strategy for cervical cancer gene therapy.