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Transactivation of human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) by KSHV promotes Kaposi’s sarcoma development

Oncogenevolume 37pages45344545 (2018) | Download Citation


Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the causative agent of several human cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), which represents the most common AIDS-associated malignancy that lacks effective treatment options. Despite its clear role in AIDS malignancies, the fact that only a small set of KSHV-infected patients will eventually develop these tumors implies that additional co-factors are required for the development of KSHV-related cancers. In the current study, we demonstrate for the first time that KSHV de novo infection or viral latent proteins are able to transactivate human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) through a variety of cellular signaling pathways and transcriptional factors. Moreover, we found that HERV-K transactivation, particularly activation of its encoded oncogenic NP9 protein, plays an important role in KSHV pathogenesis and tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo. Our data provide innovative insights into the mechanisms of HERV-K transactivation contributing to viral oncogenesis, which may represent a promising target for KS treatment.

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We thank Dr. Rolf Renne at the University of Florida for his kind gifts of TIVE-LTC and TIVE cells and Dr. Friedrich A. Grasser from Universitatsklinikum des Saarlandes, Germany for kindly providing HERV-K NP9 plasmids and antibody. This work was supported by grants from a DOD Career Development Award to (CA140437 to ZQ); a Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center Pilot grant (U54GM104940 from NIH), a LSU LIFT2 funding, and NIH P20-GM121288-01 (PI: Krzysztof Reiss) subproject to ZQ; NIH RO1-AI101046, R01-AI106676, and P01CA214091 and Department of Defense W81XWH-16-1-0318 to EKF; the federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, under Contract No. HHSN261200800001E to DW; and the awards from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81472547, 81672924 to ZQ and 81400164, 81772930 to LD). Funding sources had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Authors contribution

LD and ZQ designed and performed experiments, analyzed results, and wrote the manuscript. LDV and WM performed experiments. DW, ACO, and EKF performed statistical analysis and provided critical input.

Author information


  1. Department of Genetics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Louisiana Cancer Research Center, 1700 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA

    • Lu Dai
    •  & Zhiqiang Qin
  2. Department of Pediatrics, Research Center for Translational Medicine and Key Laboratory of Arrhythmias, East Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, 200120, Shanghai, China

    • Lu Dai
    •  & Zhiqiang Qin
  3. Department of Pathology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Louisiana Cancer Research Center, 1700 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA

    • Luis Del Valle
  4. Viral Oncology Section, AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, Leidos Biomedical Research, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, PO Box B, Frederick, MD, 21702, USA

    • Wendell Miley
    •  & Denise Whitby
  5. Department of Pediatrics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Louisiana Cancer Research Center, 1700 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA

    • Augusto C. Ochoa
  6. Department of Pathology, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Tulane Cancer Center, 1700 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA

    • Erik K. Flemington


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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Zhiqiang Qin.

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