Background: Studies evaluating the presence of viral sequences in breast cancer (BC), including various strains of human papillomavirus and human herpes virus, have yielded conflicting results. Most were based on RT-PCR and in situ hybridization.
Methods: In this report we searched for expressed viral sequences in 58 BC transcriptomes using five distinct in silico methods. In addition, we complemented our RNA sequencing results with exome sequencing, PCR and immunohistochemistry (IHC) analyses. A control sample was used to test our in silico methods.
Results: All of the computational methods correctly detected viral sequences in the control sample. We identified a small number of viral sequences belonging to human herpesvirus 4 and 6 and Merkel cell polyomavirus. The extremely low expression levels-two orders of magnitude lower than in a typical hepatitis B virus infection in hepatocellular carcinoma-did not suggest active infections. The presence of viral elements was confirmed in sample-matched exome sequences, but could not be confirmed by PCR or IHC.
Conclusions: Our results show that no viral sequences are expressed in significant amounts in the BC investigated. The presence of non-transcribed viral DNA cannot be excluded.