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EMBO J. 1994 Jun 1;13(11):2526-34.

Evidence for long-range oncogene activation by hepadnavirus insertion.

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Unité de Recombinaison et Expression Génétique (INSERM U163), Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Insertional mutagenesis of host genes, a common oncogenic strategy of slow transforming retroviruses, has recently been described for a DNA virus of the hepadnavirus group: the woodchuck hepatitis virus. This virus causes insertional activation of myc genes, mainly the intronless N-myc2 oncogene, in > 50% of woodchuck liver tumours. In most remaining tumours, N-myc2 is overexpressed without any apparent genetic alteration. To elucidate the role of the virus in such cases, we have cloned and analysed single integration sites in four woodchuck tumours carrying wild-type myc alleles. All sites were clustered within < 20 kb in a single locus, in which scarce unique sequences showed no detectable transcriptional activity. By fluorescent in situ hybridization, N-myc2 and the new locus (win) were localized to the same region of the long arm of the woodchuck X chromosome, and a 150-180 kb intervening distance was deduced from pulse-field gel analysis. The detection of viral integrations in win in additional tumours that produced abundant N-myc2 transcripts further substantiates the link between these two loci in woodchuck tumorigenesis. We propose that efficient activation of the N-myc2 promoter by the hepadnavirus enhancer acting over a long distance might operate in liver cell transformation.

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