SV40 T antigen (Tag) coding sequences were detected by PCR amplification followed by Southern blot hybridization in human brain tumors and tumor cell lines, as well as in peripheral blood cells and sperm fluids of healthy donors. SV40 early region sequences were found in 83% of choroid plexus papillomas, 73% of ependymomas, 47% of astrocytomas, 33% of glioblastoma multiforme cases, 14% of meningiomas, 50% of glioblastoma cell lines, and 33% of astrocytoma cell lines and in 23% of peripheral blood cell samples and 45% of sperm fluids from normal individuals. None of the 13 normal brain tissues were positive for SV40 DNA, nor were seven oligodendrogliomas, two spongioblastomas, one neuroblastoma, one meningioma, or four neuroblastoma cell lines. Expression of SV40 early region was found by reverse transcription PCR, and SV40-specific Tag was detected by indirect immunofluorescence in glioblastoma cell lines. DNA sequence analysis, performed in four positive samples, confirmed that the amplified PCR products belong to the SV40 early region. Sixty-one % of the neoplastic patients positive for SV40 sequences had an age excluding exposure to SV40-contaminated polio vaccines, suggesting a contagious transmission of SV40. The possible role of SV40 Tag in the etiopathogenesis of human brain tumors and the spread of SV40 by horizontal infection in the human population are discussed.


Supported by grants from the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (to M. T. and G. B-B.), from Ministero dell'Universitá e Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Bilateral Project 95.00945.CT04, Istituto Superiore di Sanità AIDS Project (to M. T.), and Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Progetto Finalizzato “Applicazioni Cliniche della Ricerca Oncologica” (to G. B. B.). L. I. was supported by a fellowship from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cento (Ferrara, Italy), and L. L. was supported by a fellowship from the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro.

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