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J Virol. 2004 Mar;78(5):2494-501.

Identification of exogenous forms of human-tropic porcine endogenous retrovirus in miniature Swine.

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  • 1Immerge BioTherapeutics Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The replication of porcine endogenous retrovirus subgroup A (PERV-A) and PERV-B in certain human cell lines indicates that PERV may pose an infectious risk in clinical xenotransplantation. We have previously reported that human-tropic PERVs isolated from infected human cells following cocultivation with miniature swine peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) are recombinants of PERV-A with PERV-C. Here, we report that these recombinants are exogenous viruses in miniature swine; i.e., they are not present in the germ line DNA. These viruses were invariably present in miniature swine that transmitted PERV to human cells and were also identified in some miniature swine that lacked this ability. These data, together with the demonstration of the absence of both replication-competent PERV-A and recombinant PERV-A/C loci in the genome of miniature swine (L. Scobie, S. Taylor, J. C. Wood, K. M. Suling, G. Quinn, C. Patience, H.-J. Schuurman, and D. E. Onions, J. Virol. 78:2502-2509, 2004), indicate that exogenous PERV is the principal source of human-tropic virus in these animals. Interestingly, strong expression of PERV-C in PBMC correlated with an ability of the PBMC to transmit PERV-A/C recombinants in vitro, indicating that PERV-C may be an important factor affecting the production of human-tropic PERV. In light of these observations, the safety of clinical xenotransplantation from miniature swine will be most enhanced by the utilization of source animals that do not transmit PERV to either human or porcine cells. Such animals were identified within the miniature swine herd and may further enhance the safety of clinical xenotransplantation.

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