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Cancer Res. 2004 Jun 15;64(12):4105-11.

A mouse mammary tumor virus-like long terminal repeat superantigen in human breast cancer.

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Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


We previously reported a 660-bp mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV)-like env gene sequence in approximately 38% of human breast cancer DNA, but not in normal breasts or other tumors. This MMTV-like env gene sequence was expressed in 66% of the env gene-positive human breast cancers. An entire proviral structure was identified in human breast cancer DNA with high homology to MMTV and low homology to known human endogenous retrovirus. MMTV-like long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences were also detected in 41.5% of human breast cancers. They contain hormone-responsive elements, TEF-1 family elements, and the open reading frame for the superantigen (SAg). We have now amplified and sequenced MMTV-like sag sequences from 10 human breast cancers, and we found that they are highly homologous to those of MMTV. However, deletions and insertions at the COOH-terminal of sag were observed. The immune function of the human MMTV-like LTR SAg was also investigated. The sag gene was cloned and expressed in a human B-cell line (Ramos). T-cell proliferation and cytokine releasing assays were performed after cocultivation of T cells with irradiated Ramos SAg-expressing cells. The results indicate that expression of the human SAg stimulates T-cell activation in vitro, as the mouse SAg does. Because the T-cell responses in vitro are considered similar to those in vivo, these results suggest that the human LTR SAg might also play a role in human breast carcinogenesis.

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