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Mol Med. 2004 Jul-Dec;10(7-12):112-6.

SV40-immortalized human fibroblasts as a source of SV40 infectious virions.

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Department of Morphology and Embryology, Section of Histology and Embryology, Chair of Applied Biology, School of Medicine, Center of Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.


Human fibroblasts immortalized by Simian Virus 40 (SV40) are widely employed for cell and molecular biology model of study. Indeed, SV40 transmission to humans was believed to occur only under exceptional situations. The oncogenic potential of SV40 in laboratory animals is well established, whereas its involvement in human carcinogenesis is still a matter of active investigations. A recent report links SV40 exposure with the development of a brain tumor in a laboratory researcher. In previous studies, episomal viral DNA was detected in SV40 stably transformed and immortalized fibroblast cell lines. In this study, we report molecular and biological characterizations of SV40 DNA in human fibroblast cells. Our results indicate that SV40 is able to establish a persistent infection in long-term immortalized human fibroblasts, resulting in the production of an infectious viral progeny, which is able to infect both monkey and human cells. These data indicate that SV40-immortalized human fibroblasts may represent a source of SV40 infection. To avoid the SV40 infection, careful attention should be given by operators to this SV40-cell model of study.

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