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J Virol Methods. 2003 Jul;111(1):1-11.

Single-tube nested quantitative PCR: a rational and sensitive technique for detection of retroviral DNA. Application to RERV-H/HRV-5 and confirmation of its rabbit origin.

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Section of Virology, Department of Medical Sciences, Academic Hospital, Uppsala University, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden.


It was reported earlier that a few patients suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma had low amounts of DNA from the so-called fifth human exogenous retrovirus, HRV-5. A sensitive and rational method for large-scale screening for HRV-5 DNA was therefore developed. It is a single-tube nested quantitative PCR (stnQPCR), which uses two functionally isolated primer pairs and one probe target distinct from related endogenous retroviral sequences, yet encompassing known HRV-5 variation, allowing optimal use of sequence conservation. DNA from lymphoma, myeloma, and follicular dendritic cell lines was tested for HRV-5 positivity, as was DNA from whole blood of blood donors, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and systemic lupus erythematosus patients, as well as DNA from lymph node biopsies of rheumatoid arthritis patients with lymphoma. One blood donor, one systemic lupus erythematosus patient, two previously known positive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients, and one rheumatoid arthritis lymphoma patient, came out positive. They had 24, 2, 148, 480 and 30 proviral copies per microg of DNA from PBMC or lymphoma tissue, respectively. During the completion of this work it was reported that HRV-5 is a rabbit endogenous retrovirus (RERV-H), and that HRV-5 positivity was due to presence of rabbit DNA. DNA from six RERV-H/HRV-5 positive samples was therefore retested. Three also contained rabbit mitochondrial DNA. A search for HRV-5 antibodies using synthetic peptides was negative in sera from three RERV-H/HRV-5 positive individuals, as well as in 144 other sera, according with a noninfectious origin of the RERV-H/HRV-5 DNA in human samples. A search for possible sources of rabbit DNA contamination was negative. Methods for prevention of PCR contamination were strictly adhered to. Three samples from RERV-H/HRV-5 positive individuals positive at the Uppsala laboratory were retested at one or two other laboratories, and all three were positive. Two other samples, which were positive in the Riga laboratory, were tested also in London and also found positive. One non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patient was RERV-H/HRV-5 positive in four consecutive samples, showing that positivity was a property of that patient. It is concluded that the stnQPCR developed to detect and quantify minute amounts of RERV-H/HRV-5 DNA is a principle which can be applied widely and HRV-5 is a RERV-H. Its presence in a few human blood samples could not be explained.

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