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Cell. 1991 Jul 12;66(1):95-105.

Fusion of the nuclear oncoproteins v-Myb and v-Ets is required for the leukemogenicity of E26 virus.

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Differentiation Programme European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.


The highly leukemogenic avian retrovirus E26 expresses the two transcriptional activator-type oncogenes v-myb and v-ets as a nuclear fusion protein. Previous studies have shown that both oncogenes cooperate in the transformation of erythroid cells in vitro and that the phenotypes of transformed cells differ, depending on whether the oncogenes are coexpressed as separate proteins or as a fusion protein. Here we show that virus constructs encoding either v-Myb or v-Ets as their only oncoprotein are nonleukemogenic and that constructs coexpressing nonfused v-Myb and v-Ets proteins appear to be weakly leukemogenic. Surprisingly, leukemic animals injected with the latter contain highly leukemogenic variant viruses that exhibit internal deletions in their genome, resulting in the synthesis of novel Myb-Ets fusion proteins. These results show that v-Myb and v-Ets must be fused to cause leukemia and establish a new mechanism of oncogene activation and cooperation.

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