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J Invertebr Pathol. 2012 Jan;109(1):97-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2011.10.008. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

Lack of detection of a putative retrovirus associated with haemic neoplasia in the soft shell clam Mya arenaria.

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Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Atlantic Veterinary College, Charlottetown, PE, Canada C1A 4P3.


Haemic neoplasia (HN) is a leukemia-like disease that affects at least 20 species of marine bivalves including soft shell clam, Mya arenaria. Since the disease was discovered in 1969, the etiology remains unknown. A retroviral etiology has been suggested based on the detection of reverse transcriptase activity and electron microscopic observation of retroviral-like particles using negative staining. To date, however no virus isolate and no retroviral sequence from HN has been obtained. Moreover, transmission of the disease by cell-free filtrate from affected clams has not been reproduced. In the current study, we reinvestigated the association of HN with a putative retrovirus. Sucrose gradient centrifugation followed by assessment of reverse transcriptase activity, electrophoretic analysis of protein and RNA, and electron microscopic examinations of fractions corresponding to retroviral density were employed. Detection of retroviral pol sequences using degenerate RT-PCR approaches was also attempted. Our results showed visible bands at the expected density of retrovirus in HN-positive and HN-negative clam tissues and both with reverse transcriptase activity. Electron microscopy, RNA analysis, protein analysis, and PCR systems targeting the pol gene of retroviruses did not however provide clear evidence supporting presence of a retrovirus. We point out that the retrovirus etiology of HN of Mya arenaria proposed some 25 years ago should be reconsidered in the absence of a virus isolate or virus sequences.

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