Mini Review ARTICLE

Front. Oncol., 17 June 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2013.00156

Infection of xenotransplanted human cell lines by murine retroviruses: a lesson brought back to light by XMRV

Heidi A. Hempel1, Kathleen H. Burns1,2, Angelo M. De Marzo1,3 and Karen S. Sfanos1,3*
  • 1Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • 2Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • 3The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

Infection of xenotransplanted human cells by xenotropic retroviruses is a known phenomenon in the scientific literature, with examples cited since the early 1970s. However, arguably, until recently, the importance of this phenomenon had not been largely recognized. The emergence and subsequent debunking of Xenotropic Murine leukemia virus-Related Virus (XMRV) as a cell culture contaminant as opposed to a potential pathogen in several human diseases, notably prostate cancer and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, highlighted a potential problem of murine endogenous gammaretroviruses infecting commonly used human cell lines. Subsequent to the discovery of XMRV, many additional cell lines that underwent xenotransplantation in mice have been shown to harbor murine gammaretroviruses. Such retroviral infection poses the threat of not only confounding experiments performed in these cell lines via virus-induced changes in cellular behavior but also the potential infection of other cell lines cultured in the same laboratory. Thus, the possibility of xenotropic retroviral infection of cell lines may warrant additional precautions, such as periodic testing for retroviral sequences in cell lines cultured in the laboratory.

Keywords: gammaretrovirus, cell line, xenotransplantation, XMRV, cancer

Citation: Hempel HA, Burns KH, De Marzo AM and Sfanos KS (2013) Infection of xenotransplanted human cell lines by murine retroviruses: a lesson brought back to light by XMRV. Front. Oncol. 3:156. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00156

Received: 30 April 2013; Accepted: 03 June 2013;
Published online: 17 June 2013.

Edited by:

Iyoko Katoh, University of Yamanashi, Japan

Reviewed by:

Olivier Micheau, INSERM, France
Luisa Lanfrancone, European Institute of Oncology, Italy

Copyright: © 2013 Hempel, Burns, De Marzo and Sfanos. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Karen S. Sfanos, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, 1550 Orleans Street, CRBII, Room 1M43, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA e-mail: ksfanos@jhmi.edu