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Xenotransplantation. 2000 May;7(2):138-42.

Productive infection of primary human endothelial cells by pig endogenous retrovirus (PERV).

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  • 1Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Hannover Medical School, Germany.


The potential risk of viral transmission in the setting of xenotransplantation has gained major attention. Different porcine cell types have been shown to release retroviral particles, which are infectious for human cell lines in vitro. However, there are only a few data on whether PERV (pig endogenous retrovirus) is able to infect primary human cells. In this study we have analyzed endothelial cells, vascular fibroblasts, mesangial cells, mononuclear cells, hematopoetic stem cells and bone marrow stromal cells for PERV transmission. We now provide evidence for primary human endothelial cells, vascular fibroblasts, and mesangial cells to be susceptible to PERV transmission. PERV infection was productive in endothelial cells and mesangial cells. Our data confirm and extend former reports concerning the PERV infection of human cells. The PERV infection of different primary human cells represents further significant evidence for a viral risk during xenotransplantation. In this context, special attention should be directed towards productive infection of human endothelial cells: in the setting of xenotransplantation this cell type will have close contact with porcine cells and PERV particles.

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