Certain human papillomavirus (HPV) types cause warts, dysplasias, and carcinomas of the ano-genital and oral mucosa. Because of the inability to propagate HPVs in cultured cells, the paucity of viral mRNAs in human lesions, and the complexity of alternatively spliced transcripts derived from different promoters, it has not been possible to ascertain the exact structures of the majority of the mRNA species and the proteins encoded. We have adapted the recently developed polymerase chain reaction to amplify cDNAs of rare, type 11 HPV mRNAs isolated from a productively infected human foreskin xenograft in an athymic mouse. The oligonucleotide primers were designed to flank each of the mRNA splice sites previously mapped by electron microscopic analysis of heteroduplexes formed between cloned HPV-11 DNA and viral mRNAs isolated from genital warts. The splice junctions were determined by direct sequencing of the PCR-amplified cDNA products or after the cDNA was cloned into a plasmid vector. We provide the first direct evidence for the existence of rare mRNAs with the potential to encode regulatory proteins that have been hypothesized to exist for HPVs. Depending on the lengths of the upstream exons, the translation frame used and the possibility of internal reinitiation during translation, one pair of mRNAs with the same splice junction could encode the viral DNA copy number modulating protein E1-M, the enhancer repression protein E2-C, or both. A second pair of mRNAs, also with identical splice junctions, encode the enhancer-regulating protein E2; the longer of the two could also encode, in its 5′ axon, either or both of the E6 and E7 proteins. Finally, we demonstrate that the doubly spliced late message for the major virion capsid protein Li also contains the entire coding region for the early E1∧E4 protein in the first two exons, with the initiation codon for the Li protein located precisely at the splice acceptor of the third axon. The potential of this late mRNA to encode both the E1∧E4 protein and the capsid protein could contribute to the preponderance of the E4 protein in the lesion. © 1989.