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J Virol. Aug 2005; 79(15): 10093–10096.
PMCID: PMC1181551

A New Common Integration Site, Int7, for the Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus in Mouse Mammary Tumors Identifies a Gene Whose Product Has Furin-Like and Thrombospondin-Like Sequences


A novel common integration site for the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) was identified (designated Int7) in five independently arising mouse mammary tumors. The insertion sites all cluster within a 1-kb region that is 2 to 3 kb 5′ of the transcription initiation site of a gene, 2610028F08RIK, whose gene product contains furin-like and thrombospondin-like sequences. Expression of Int7 is normally very low or silent during various stages of mammary gland development, but MMTV integration at this site results in the activation of high steady-state levels of expression of the gene. These five tumors were also found to have two or three additional viral insertions, which in each case occurred flanking a member of either the Wnt and/or FGF gene family. Reverse transcriptase PCR results demonstrated that each of the viral insertions led to elevated expression of the presumed target flanking genes.

The mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) induces pregnancy-independent mammary adenocarcinomas in the Czech II strain of feral Mus musculus musculus with a predictable (20%) frequency after 15 months of age (reviewed in reference 3). These mice also develop preneoplastic hyperplastic nodules that can be transplanted as hyperplastic outgrowth lines. Frequently, mammary tumors will develop from within these outgrowths, and some mice also develop metastatic lesions to the lungs. Unlike other inbred strains of mice, such as C3H and RIII, which have been bred to have a 100% mammary tumor incidence among parous females, with an average latency of 250 days, Czech II mice have not undergone selection for increased tumor frequency or shortened latency. Furthermore, Czech II mice have no endogenous MMTV proviral genomes, while most other inbred strains carry between two and eight. These two aspects of Czech II mice make it an attractive model in which to screen for new common integration sites (CIS) involved with mammary tumorigenesis. Both Int3, the activated intracellular domain of the Notch-4 receptor, and Int6, the p48 component of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 complex (eIF3p48), were originally isolated as retroviral tags in mammary tumors from Czech II mice (5, 10).

We have surveyed additional Czech II mammary tumors in search of new CIS for MMTV. Using the inverse PCR approach (14), we have identified a novel CIS from a panel of 40 independently arising mammary tumors. Tumor DNA was first digested overnight by using a cocktail of BamHI, BglII, and BclI restriction enzymes (Roche, Indianapolis, IN). Digested DNA (20 ng) was then self ligated in a total volume of 200 μl by using T4 DNA ligase (high concentration) (Roche) at 16°C overnight. Template DNA (2 μl) was added to PCRs (92°C for 3 min 20 s, 65°C for 25 s, and 70°C for 2.5 min for 30 cycles and 70°C for 10 min) by using primer set MMTV ltr5-100 (5′CGCGTGCACGCAGACGGGTCGTCCTTGG3′) and Gag-2720 (5′CCTCCTGGAGTTAAAAAGACTGTATTAGC3′) or MMTV ltr3-9740 (5′CTTGCAACAGTCCTAACATTCGTCTCTCG3′) and Env-8380 (5′CCAATCTAATGGATTTAACGCCTTCACTCC3′). A portion (2 μl) of this reaction mixture was then reamplified by using the same reaction conditions with primer set MMTV ltr5-40 (5′CCTAAGTGTAGGACACTCTCGGGAGTTC3′) and Gag-2800 (5′CATTTCAAGGCTCGAGGAAGCTGTTTACAG3′) or MMTV ltr3-9780 (5′GCCATCCCGTCTCCGCTCGTCACTTATCC3′) and Env-8360 (5′CACTCCATTGGCAAAGGACTGAGCCAAACC3′). The resulting products were separated on a 1% agarose gel, and individual bands were eluted and their nucleotide sequence directly determined. Nucleotide sequence data were compared by BLASTn with nonredundant and expressed sequence tag (EST) databases to determine genomic sites of integration and relative position to flanking genes.

A new CIS (2610028F08Rik) was identified for MMTV in five independent tumors isolated from various stages of tumor development (Fig. (Fig.1).1). Interestingly, it has not been found to be a CIS target for murine leukemia virus in several large-scale surveys of virus-induced mouse leukemia and lymphomas (1, 4, 6, 13). The preneoplastic hyperplastic outgrowth (HOG) line CZZ26 represented the earliest mammary tumor stage in which the gene was rearranged (Table (Table1,1, sample 676). In addition, the gene was also rearranged in a CZZ26-derived mammary tumor and its associated lung metastasis. This suggests that MMTV integration at this site is an early event in the evolution of the tumor. Similarly, the gene was also rearranged in the HOG CZZ28-derived mammary tumor (sample 649) and lung metastasis (sample 641). Unfortunately, CZZ28 HOG DNA was unavailable for testing to determine whether it contained an MMTV genome integrated at this site. All of the integration sites at 2610028F08Rik occurred within a 2- to 3-kb region of the genome that is 5′ of the transcription initiation site (a TATA-less promoter) of the gene. In each case, the transcriptional orientation of the integrated viral genome was in the opposite direction with respect to the 2610028F08Rik (designated Int7) transcription promoter (Fig. (Fig.1A1A and Table Table11).

FIG. 1.
The 2610028F08Rik (Int7/FLTL) locus. The CIS for MMTV (vertical arrow) in the 2610028F08Rik (Int7/FLTL) locus is adjacent to another CIS for MMTV, eIF3s6 (Int6), on mouse chromosome 15. The transcriptional orientations of the genes are indicated with ...
Characteristics of mammary tumors having MMTV CIS at Int7/FLTL

Int7 contains eight exons spanning over 250 kb of genomic DNA located on chromosome 15 and is positioned next to eIF3e/Int6 in the same transcriptional orientation (Fig. (Fig.1).1). The transcribed message is 3,342 bp. We have cloned and determined the nucleotide sequence of this transcript, and our sequence agrees with the GenBank sequence. The largest open reading frame of Int7 begins with a start codon at position 878 in the second exon and encodes a protein having 243 amino acid residues. Amino acid sequence analysis suggests that the Int7 protein contains a nuclear localization signal near the C′ terminus, as well as a furin-like domain and a thrombospondin-like domain (Fig. (Fig.2).2). We have tentatively renamed the gene Int7/FLTL (furin-like thrombospondin-like) to reflect the presence of these two domains in the protein. At the present time, it is only possible to speculate on the function of the gene product. By use of the Gene Ontology programs (Mouse Genome Informatics [http://www.informatics.Jax.org]), it could be inferred from the sequence or structural similarity that the Int7/FLTL protein may be a transmembrane receptor protein tyrosine kinase, a portion of which could be transferred to the nucleus (11).

FIG. 2.
The amino acid sequence of the 2610028F08Rik (Int7/FLTL) protein. The regions of the protein that are similar to furin and thrombospondin and the nuclear localization (NLS) consensus sequences are underlined and in bold. A comparison of the furin and ...

Int7/FLTL product is ubiquitously expressed at low levels in several adult tissues (Fig. (Fig.3A)3A) and early in mammary gland development (Fig. (Fig.3B)3B) but is not detectable in the mammary glands of day 15 pregnant mice (Fig. (Fig.3C)3C) or lactating or involuting mice (Fig. (Fig.3B).3B). Whereas tumors having a viral insertion at Int7/FLTL express high steady-state levels of Int7/FLTL RNA, tumors in which the gene has not been rearranged by the virus express no detectable levels of Int7/FLTL RNA (Fig. (Fig.3B).3B). In addition, the FLTL transcript has been identified in several cDNA libraries, including a library generated from tumors metastasizing to the mammary gland (Unigene; National Center for Biotechnology Information). To begin to assess the function of Int7/FLTL, we have expressed FLTL cDNA in the HC11 mouse mammary epithelial cell line (2). This led to no discernible morphological changes in the cells, and its expression did not confer the capacity for anchorage-independent soft agar growth on the cells (data not shown). This appears not to be a consequence of significantly lower levels of Int7/FLTL RNA in HC11-Int7 compared to a tumor in which Int7/FLTL has been rearranged by MMTV (Fig. (Fig.3D,3D, compare lanes 2 and 3).

FIG. 3.
RT-PCR assay for expression of Int7/FLTL and other CIS genes. (A) Total RNAs were prepared (5) from brain (lane 1), heart (lane 2), kidney (lane 3), liver (lane 4), lung (lane 5), spleen (lane 6), salivary gland (lane 7), and uterus (lane 8) and tested ...

Members of the FGF and Wnt gene families are the primary CIS for MMTV in “high-incidence” inbred mouse strains for mammary tumors (reviewed in reference 3). Frequently, tumors are positive for MMTV integrations at both Wnt and FGF genes, leading to the concept that MMTV-induced mutations collaborate in the induction of mammary tumors. This was subsequently confirmed in MMTV-induced mammary tumors in Wnt1 or FGF3 transgenic mice, in which the complementing gene (a member of the FGF or Wnt gene family, respectively) was frequently rearranged by the virus (8, 9, 12). However, since mammary tumors also arise sporadically in bitransgenic (Wnt1 plus FGF3) females, additional mutation(s) must be required for tumor development (7).

Southern blot analysis of the Int7/FLTL-positive tumors shows that each has between three and six proviral genomes (data not shown). In each tumor, at least one of these viral insertions occurred near a member of either the Wnt or FGF gene family (Table (Table1).1). To determine whether retroviral integration affected flanking gene expression, we designed primers to the specific gene sequences and performed reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR to determine relative levels of expression. These genes are not normally expressed or expressed at very low levels in the mammary gland. The results, shown in Fig. Fig.3C,3C, demonstrate that the genes flanking the sites of retroviral integration were selectively expressed in these tumor samples compared to normal day 15 pregnant mammary glands. Interestingly, in metastasis 641 and tumor 5165, expression of both FGF3 and FGF4 was detected. These genes are approximately 20 kb apart. In the case of metastasis 641, the viral insertion occurred between the two genes. At present, we have not detected a viral insertion site around these genes in tumor 5165. Similarly, in tumor 4987, Wnt10b is expressed, although we have not been able to locate the putative viral insertion site in the DNA of this tumor. By Southern blot analysis, the location of the three viral insertions in HOG CZZ26 (sample 676) and tumor 630 were identical, whereas metastasis 637 contained three additional viral insertion sites (data not shown). We suspect that FGF3 expression detected in tumor 630 is a consequence of a viral insertion near this gene in a subpopulation of tumors that subsequent contributed to metastasis 637. Our results (summarized in Table Table1),1), taken together, suggest that virus-induced expression of FLTL represents an early event in mammary tumorigenesis. Although we do not know the molecular consequences of Int7/FLTL expression on mammary gland development, we speculate that tumor progression occurs as a consequence of the collaborative effect of Int7/FLTL expression with the virus-induced expression of members of either the FGF or Wnt family of secreted growth factors.


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