Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) amplify in differentiated strata of a squamous epithelium. The HPV E7 protein destabilizes the p130/retinoblastoma susceptibility protein family of tumor suppressors and reactivates S-phase reentry, thereby facilitating viral DNA amplification. The high-risk HPV E6 protein destabilizes the p53 tumor suppressor and many other host proteins. However, the critical E6 targets relevant to viral DNA amplification have not been identified, because functionally significant E6 mutants are not stably maintained in transfected cells. Using Cre-loxP recombination, which efficiently generates HPV genomic plasmids in transfected primary human keratinocytes, we have recapitulated a highly productive infection of HPV-18 in organotypic epithelial cultures. By using this system, we now report the characterization of four HPV-18 E6 mutations. An E6 null mutant accumulated high levels of p53 and amplified very poorly. p53 siRNA or ectopic WT E6 partially restored amplification, whereas three missense E6 mutations that did not effectively destabilize p53 complemented the null mutant poorly. Unexpectedly, in cis, two of the missense mutants amplified, albeit to a lower extent than the WT and only in cells with undetectable p53. These observations and others implicate p53 and additional host proteins in regulating viral DNA amplification and also suggest an inhibitory effect of E6 overexpression. We show that high levels of viral DNA amplification are critical for late protein expression and report several previously undescribed viral RNAs, including bicistronic transcripts predicted to encode E5 and L2 or an alternative form of E1-E4 and L1.