To determine whether human endogenous retroviruses are implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory vascular diseases of unknown etiology, we examined mRNA expression of a human endogenous retrovirus, HERV-R, which has a long open reading frame in the env region, in cultured human vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells stimulated in the presence of various cytokines. mRNA of HERV-R was always evident in these cells but not in fibroblastic cells. Levels of expression in vascular endothelial cells were significantly regulated by treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1alpha, and IL-1beta as up-regulators and interferon-gamma as a down-regulator. These observations are interpreted to mean that HERV-R expression may be up- or down-regulated at sites of inflammation in vessels in vivo and hence may play a pathogenetic role in inflammatory vascular diseases in humans, perhaps similar to endogenous retroviruses in mouse models of polyarteritis nodosa in humans.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.