Presence of a mouse mammary tumour virus-like in feline lymphomas: a preliminary study

Infect Agent Cancer. 2022 Jun 23;17(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s13027-022-00449-9.


The mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) is implicated in the aetiology of murine mammary carcinomas and a variant of it, the type B leukemogenic virus, can cause murine thymic lymphomas. Interestingly, a MMTV-like virus is suspected to be involved in human breast cancer and feline mammary carcinomas. However, to date, no cases of MMTV-like sequence amplifications have been described in lymphoid neoplasms in veterinary literature. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of env nucleotide sequences and protein 14 (p14) of a MMTV-like virus in fifty-three feline lymphoma samples. Our results show that MMTV-like sequences were detected in 5/53 tumours (9.4%): three gastrointestinal lymphomas (one B-type diffuse large, one B-type small non-cleaved, and one T-type diffuse mixed lymphoma); and two nasal lymphomas (one B-type diffuse small cleaved lymphoma and one B-type diffuse mixed lymphoma). P14 expression was detected in the cytoplasm, and rarely in nuclei, exclusively of neoplastic cells from PCR-positive tumours. The correlation between the presence of the MMTV-env like sequences (MMTVels) and p14 antigen was statistically significant in nasal lymphomas. All cats with MMTVels-positive lymphoma had a history of contact with the outdoor environment and/or catteries, and two deceased subjects shared their environment with cats that also died of lymphoma. In conclusion, this study succeeds in demonstrating the presence of MMTVels and p14 in feline lymphomas. The characterization of the immunophenotype of MMTVels-positive lymphomas could contribute to the understanding of a possible role of a MMTV-like virus in feline tumour aetiology. The significant association between the presence of the viral sequences in lymphoid tumours and their nasal localization, together with the data collected through supplementary anamnesis, should be further analysed in order to understand the epidemiology of the virus.

Keywords: Feline lymphoma; Fragment analysis; Heminested PCR; Immunohistochemistry; MMTV-like virus.

Publication types

  • Review