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J Clin Invest. 1997 Jun 15;99(12):2971-8.

In situ polymerase chain reaction-based localization studies support role of human herpesvirus-8 as the cause of two AIDS-related neoplasms: Kaposi's sarcoma and body cavity lymphoma.

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Skin Disease Research Laboratories, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois 60153-5385, USA.


Several lines of investigation point to a new herpesvirus, human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), as the cause of two different neoplasms seen in AIDS patients-Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and body cavity B cell lymphoma. If this virus is the etiological agent, rather than another opportunistic infectious agent, it should be present in the earliest detectable clinical lesions on a temporal basis, and localize to specific target cells in a spatial pattern consistent with tumorigenic pathways. In this study, we take advantage of the clinical accessibility to biopsy early (patch stage) skin lesions of KS to address the temporal issue, combined with in situ PCR and dual immunostaining using a marker identifying malignant cells, to address the spatial localization issue. 21 different tissue samples were subjected to PCR analysis and in situ PCR with and without simultaneous immunostaining. In normal skin from healthy individuals, no HHV-8 DNA was detected by PCR or in situ PCR. However, in all PCR-positive tissues, distinct and specific in situ PCR staining was observed. In four different patch stage KS lesions, in situ PCR staining localized to nuclei of endothelial cells and perivascular spindle-shaped tumor cells. Later stage KS lesions (plaques and nodules) revealed additional positive cells, including epidermal keratinocytes (four of five), and eccrine epithelia (two of four). These patterns were nonrestricted to skin, as pulmonary KS also revealed HHV-8-specific infection of endothelial cells and KS tumor cells, as well as epithelioid pneumocytes (two of two). In body cavity B cell lymphoma by dual staining, HHV-8 was present in malignant tumor cells (EMA immunostained positive) and not in reactive lymphocytes. These results reveal an early temporal onset and nonrandom tissue and cellular distribution pattern for HHV-8 infection that is consistent with a causal link between this DNA virus and two AIDS-related neoplasms.

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