Distinct roles for LINE-1 and HERV-K retroelements in cell proliferation, differentiation and tumor progression

Oncogene. 2007 Jun 21;26(29):4226-33. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1210214. Epub 2007 Jan 22.


Transformed cells express high levels of non-telomeric reverse-transcriptase (RT) activity of retrotransposon and endogenous retrovirus origin. We previously reported that RT inhibition, either pharmacological or through transient silencing of RT-encoding LINE-1 (L1) elements by RNA interference (RNAi), reduced proliferation, induced differentiation and reprogrammed gene expression in human tumorigenic cell lines. Moreover, the antiretroviral drug efavirenz antagonized tumor progression in animal models in vivo. To get insight into the role of retroelements in tumorigenesis, we have now produced two cell lines derived from A-375 melanoma, in which the expression of either L1 retrotransposon, or HERV-K endogenous retrovirus, was stably suppressed by RNAi. Compared to the parental A-375 cell line, cells with stably interfered L1 expression show a lower proliferation rate, a differentiated morphology and lower tumorigenicity when inoculated in nude mice. L1 silencing modulates expression of several genes and, unexpectedly, also downregulates HERV-K expression. In HERV-K interfered cells, instead, L1 expression was unaffected, and cell proliferation and differentiation remained unchanged compared to parental A-375 cells. In vivo, however, their tumorigenic potential was found to be reduced after inoculation in nude mice. These results suggest that L1 and HERV-K play specific and distinct roles in cell transformation and tumor progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation* / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Disease Progression
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / physiology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / genetics
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / prevention & control
  • Melanoma, Experimental / virology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Retroelements* / genetics


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Retroelements