Mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) has long been speculated to be involved in human breast cancer and more recently in human primary biliary cirrhosis. Despite complete proviral sequences markedly homologous to MMTV being identified in human breast cancer tissue, no convincing evidence has been presented to date that MMTV can infect human cells. Using both wild-type and a genetically marked virus (MMTV-EGFP), we show here the successful infection of a number of different human cells by MMTV. Furthermore, infection of human cells is shown to be almost as efficient as the infection of murine mammary epithelial cells. Sequencing of PCR products from integrated proviruses reveals that reverse transcription and integration of the viral genome has occurred as expected. Furthermore, sequencing of two independent MMTV proviral integration sites reveal them to be present only in the human and not in the mouse genome. Infection requires an intact MMTV envelope protein and is blocked either by heat inactivation of the virus or by specific neutralizing anti-MMTV serum, ruling out a nonspecific mechanism of viral transfer. Thus, MMTV can infect human cells and this finding provides a possible explanation for the detection by others of MMTV sequences in human breast cancer patients.
- human cells
- in vitro
Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.
- Received July 21, 2004.
- Revision received May 7, 2005.
- Accepted May 27, 2005.
- ©2005 American Association for Cancer Research.