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Nature 260, 170 - 173 (11 March 1976); doi:10.1038/260170a0

DNA related to the transforming gene(s) of avian sarcoma viruses is present in normal avian DNA

D. STEHELIN*, H. E. VARMUS, J. M. BISHOP & P. K. VOGT

Department of Microbiology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143
Department of Microbiology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90033
*Present address: IRSC BP8, 94800–Villejuif, France.

INFECTION of fibroblasts by avian sarcoma virus (ASV) leads to neoplastic transformation of the host cell. Genetic analyses have implicated specific viral genes in the transforming process1–4, and recent results suggest that a single viral gene is responsible4. Normal chicken cells contain DNA homologous to part of the ASV genome5–8; moreover, embryonic fibroblasts from certain strains of chickens can produce low titres of infectious type C viruses either spontaneously9 or in response to various inducing agents10. None of the viruses obtained from normal chicken cells, however, can transform fibroblasts, and results with molecular hybridisation indicate that the nucleotide sequences responsible for transformation by ASV are not part of the genetic complement of the normal cell11. We demonstrate here that the DNA of normal chicken cells contains nucleotide sequences closely related to at least a portion of the transforming gene(s) of ASV; in addition, we have found that similar sequences are widely distributed among DNA of avian species and that they have diverged roughly according to phylogenetic distances among the species. Our data are relevant to current hypotheses of the origin of the genomes of RNA tumour viruses12 and the potential role of these genomes in oncogenesis13.

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