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A xenograft model of the human disease Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) was investigated with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice. Transplantation of human LCH biopsy material into SCID mice resulted in the generation of mouse tumors resembling lymphomas. A thymoma cell line (ThyE1M6) was generated from one of these mice and found to display significant levels of Mg2+-dependent reverse transcriptase activity. Electron microscopy revealed particles with type D retroviral morphology budding from ThyE1M6 cells at a high frequency, whereas control cultures were negative. Reverse transcription-PCR of virion RNA with degenerate primers for conserved regions of various mouse, human, and primate retroviruses amplified novel sequences related to primate type D retroviruses, murine intracisternal A particles, Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus, and murine long interspersed nuclear elements but not other retroviral classes. We demonstrate that these sequences represent a novel group of endogenous retroviruses expressed at low levels in mice but expressed at high levels in the ThyE1M6 cell line. Furthermore, we propose that the activation of endogenous retroviral elements may be associated with a high incidence of thymomas in SCID mice.