Simian virus 40 (SV40) is a DNA tumor virus capable of infecting and transforming human mesothelial (HM) cells in vitro. Hamsters injected intracardially to expose most tissue types to SV40 preferentially develop mesotheliomas. In humans, asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, and asbestos and SV40 are co-carcinogens in transforming HM cells in tissue culture and in causing mesothelioma in hamsters. Laser microdissection experiments conducted in the laboratory of Adi Gazdar demonstrated that SV40 was present specifically in the malignant mesothelioma cells and not in nearby stromal cells. Further experiments demonstrated that SV40 remains episomal in HM cells and astrocytes because of the production of a long antisense RNA that represses viral capsid protein production. Thus, the potent SV40 oncoprotein, T-antigen (Tag), is expressed, but because the capsid proteins are not produced, the cells are not lysed and, instead, become transformed. Together this evidence suggests that SV40 may contribute to the development of mesotheliomas in humans. However, epidemiological evidence to support this hypothesis is lacking. This chapter also summarizes the introduction of SV40, a monkey virus, into the human population as an unrecognized contaminant of early poliovaccines. In addition to mesotheliomas, SV40 now is linked with brain cancers, osteosarcomas, and lymphomas in humans. Explanations are provided for the apparent geographic variations in SV40 prevalence and for controversies about the role of SV40 in human cancer.
Keywords: Simian virus 40 (SV40); asbestos; cancer; mesothelioma.
2020 Translational Lung Cancer Research. All rights reserved.
Conflict of interest statement
Conflicts of Interest: MC serves as the unpaid Guest Editor of the focused issue “Mesothelioma: What We know and What We Do Not Know in 2020)”. TLCR. Vol 9, Supplement 1 (February 2020). AG serves as the former unpaid editorial board member of TLCR. The other author has no conflicts of interest to declare.
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