The mechanism of DNA replication is conserved among papillomaviruses. The virus-encoded E1 and E2 proteins collaborate to target the origin and recruit host DNA replication proteins. Expression vectors of E1 and E2 proteins support homologous and heterologous papillomaviral origin replication in transiently transfected cells. Viral proteins from different genotypes can also collaborate, albeit with different efficiencies, indicating a certain degree of specificity in El-E2 interactions. We report that, in the assays of our study, the human papillomavirus type 11 (HPV-11) E1 protein functioned with the HPV-16 E2 protein, whereas the HPV-16 E1 protein exhibited no detectable activity with the HPV-11 E2 protein. Taking advantage of this distinction, we used chimeric E1 proteins to delineate the E1 protein domains responsible for this specificity. Hybrids containing HPV- 16 E1 amino-terminal residues up to residue 365 efficiently replicated either vital origin in the presence of either E2 protein. The reciprocal hybrids containing amino-terminal HPV-11 sequences exhibited a high activity with HPV-16 E2 but no activity with HPV-11 E2. Reciprocal hybrid proteins with the carboxyl-terminal 44 residues from either E1 had an intermediate property, bug both collaborated more efficiently with HPV-16 E2 than with HPV-11 E2. In contrast, chimeras with a junction in the putative ATPase domain showed little or no activity with either E2 protein. We conclude that the E1 protein consists of distinct structural and functional domains, with the carboxyl- terminal 284 residues of the HPV-16 E1 protein being the primary determinant for E2 specificity during replication, and that chimetic exchanges in or bordering the ATPase domain inactivate the protein.