Identification of a proviral structure in human breast cancer

Bingren Liu, Yue Wang, Stella M. Melana, Isabelle Pelisson, Vesna Najfeld, James F. Holland, Beatriz G.T. Pogo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Involvement of a virus similar to mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) in human breast cancer has long been postulated but never demonstrated. We have detected by PCR a 660-bp sequence similar to the env gene of MMTV but not to the known endogenous viruses, in 38% of human breast cancers examined (Wang et al., Cancer Res., 55: 5173-5179, 1995). This sequence was expressed in 66% of the env-positive tumors as detected by reverse transcription-PCR (Wang et al., Clin. Cancer Res., 4: 2565-2568, 1998). In this article we report the amplification of a whole proviral structure from each of two human breast carcinomas that were env positive. Using nested extra-long PCR and primers from specific MMTV sequences, overlapping env-long terminal repeat (LTR), LTR-gag, gag-pol, and polenv segments were successfully amplified. The 9.9-kb provirus is 95% homologous to MMTV but only 57% to human endogenous retrovirus K10 in 3.5 kb of the gag and pol genes. The provirus displays typical features of a replication competent virus, plus the open reading frame for the superantigen and the glucocorticoid responsive element. Fluorescence in situ hybridization with a 2.7-kb env-LTR sequence of an env-positive breast cancer cell line revealed that the sequence is inserted in several chromosomes but not in chromosomes from normal breast cells. The origin of the MMTV-like sequences is uncertain. Because they are undetectable in normal tissues, because the similarity between the two isolates is high (96%), and because they maintain open reading frames, they appear to be exogenous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1754-1759
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2001


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of a proviral structure in human breast cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this