The human papillomavirus type 16 E5 oncoprotein possesses mitogenic activity that acts synergistically with epidermal growth factor (EGF) in human keratinocytes and inhibits the degradation of the EGF receptor in endosomal compartments after ligand-stimulated endocytosis. One potential explanation for these observations is that E5 inhibits the acidification of endosomes. This may be mediated through the 16-kDa component of the vacuolar proton-ATPase, since animal and human papillomavirus E5 proteins bind this subunit protein. Using a ratio-imaging technique to determine endosomal pH, we found that the acidification of endosomes in E5-expressing keratinocytes was delayed at least fourfold compared with normal human keratinocytes and endosomes in some cells never completely acidified. Furthermore, E5 expression increased the resistance of keratinocytes to protein synthesis inhibition by diphtheria toxin, a process dependent on efficient endosomal acidification. Finally, artificially inhibiting endosomal acidification with chloroquine during the endocytosis of EGF receptors in keratinocytes demonstrated many of the same effects as the expression of human papillomavirus type 16 E5, including prolonged retention of undegraded EGF receptors in intracellular vesicles.