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BMC Research Notes

, 7:159

First Online: 19 March 2014Received: 31 October 2013Accepted: 14 March 2014DOI: 10.1186-1756-0500-7-159

Cite this article as: Kessler, A.F., Wiesner, M., Denner, J. et al. BMC Res Notes 2014 7: 159. doi:10.1186-1756-0500-7-159


BackgroundThe human endogenous retrovirus K HERV-K has been acquired by the genome of human ancestors million years ago. It is the most complete of the HERVs with transcriptionally active gag, pol and env genes. Splice variants of env, which are rec, 1.5 kb transcript and Np9 have been suggested to be tumorigenic. Transcripts of HERV-K have been detected in a multitude of human cancers. However, no such reports are available concerning glioblastomas GBM, the most common malignant brain tumor in adults. Patients have a limited prognosis of 14.6 months in median, despite standard treatment. Therefore, we elucidated whether HERV-K transcripts could be detected in these tumors and serve as new molecular target for treatment.

FindingsWe analyzed human GBM cell lines, tissue samples from patients and primary cell cultures of different passages for HERV-K full length mRNA and env, rec and 1.5 kb transcripts. While the GBM cell lines U138, U251, U343 and GaMG displayed weak and U87 strong expression of the full length HERV-K, the splice products could not be detected, despite a weak expression of env mRNA in U87 cells. Very few tissue samples from patients showed weak expression of env mRNA, but none of the rec or 1.5 kb transcripts. Primary cells expressed the 1.5 kb transcript weakly in early passages, but lost HERV-K expression with extended culture time.

ConclusionsThese data suggest that HERV-K splice products do not play a role in human malignant gliomas and therefore, are not suitable as targets for new therapy regimen.

KeywordsHuman endogenous retrovirus HERV-K Glioblastoma multiforme Astrocytic tumor Expression Glioblastoma cell line PCR analysis AbbreviationsBpBase pairs


DNADeoxyribonucleic acid

GAPDHGlyceraldehyd-3-phosphate dehydrogenase

GBMGlioblastoma multiforme

HCMVHuman cytomegalovirus

HERV-KHuman endogenous retrovirus K


kbKilo base pairs

LGAAstrocytoma WHO grade 2

LTRLong terminal repeat

mRNAMessenger ribonucleic acid

NBNormal brain

RT-PCRReverse transcription polymerase chain reaction


Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1756-0500-7-159 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Almuth Friederike Kessler - Miriam Wiesner - Joachim Denner - Ulrike Kämmerer - Giles Hamilton Vince - Thomas Linsenmann


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