A novel multiplex RT-PCR system detects human endogenous retrovirus-K in breast cancer

Arch Virol. 2005 Jan;150(1):177-84. doi: 10.1007/s00705-004-0378-8. Epub 2004 Sep 21.


Human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K like-sequences have been implicated in certain cancers. We developed a novel multiplex RT-PCR system for HERV-K that yielded a 533 bp product together with a smaller sized product (319 bp) of the house keeping gene, histidyl tRNA synthetase (HtRNAS). The latter spanned an intron that also served to validate target cDNA. PCR amplicons of HERV-K and HtRNAS were visualised using a gel documentation system and the pixel intensity used to derive semi-quantitative levels of viral expression. Our data showed that HERV-K10 was significantly elevated in MCF-7 cells treated with estrogen. Interestingly, HERV-K expression was higher in MCF-7 cells selected with adriamycin. RT-PCR combined with Southern blotting also detected HERV-K from breast cancer tissue using laser capture microscopy. This study highlights the presence of HERV-K in the breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 and MCF-7 ADR and confirms HERV-K10 transcripts in the cell line T47D. We believe this study to be a novel approach in determining levels of HERV-K expression and for detecting this virus in cancer cell lines and tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / virology*
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / genetics
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Messenger