Publications & Reports

HERV-K Gag RNA and Protein Levels Are Elevated in Malignant Regions of the Prostate in Males with Prostate Cancer.

Rezaei SD, Hayward JA, Norden S, Pedersen J, Mills J, Hearps AC, Tachedjian G
Life Sciences Discipline, Burnet Institute, 85 Commercial Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia.


Heightened expression of human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) sequences has been associated with a range of malignancies, including prostate cancer, suggesting that they may serve as useful diagnostic or prognostic cancer biomarkers. We analysed the expression of HERV-K (Gag and Env/Np9 regions), HERV-E 4.1 (Pol and Env regions), HERV-H (Pol) and HERV-W (Gag) sequences in prostate cancer cells lines and normal prostate epithelial cells using qRT-PCR. HERV expression was also analysed in matched malignant and benign prostate tissue samples from men with prostate cancer (n = 27, median age 65.2 years (range 47-70)) and compared to prostate cancer-free male controls (n = 11). Prostate cancer epithelial cell lines exhibited a signature of HERV RNA overexpression, with all HERVs analysed, except HERV-E Pol, showing heightened expression in at least two, but more commonly all, cell lines analysed. Analysis of primary prostate material indicated increased expression of HERV-E Pol but decreased expression of HERV-E Env in both malignant and benign regions of the prostate in men with prostate cancer as compared to those without. Expression of HERV-K Gag was significantly higher in malignant regions of the prostate in men with prostate cancer as compared to matched benign regions and prostate cancer-free men (p < 0.001 for both), with 85.2% of prostate cancers donors showing malignancy-associated upregulation of HERV-K Gag RNA. HERV-K Gag protein was detected in 12/18 (66.7%) malignant tissues using immunohistochemistry, but only 1/18 (5.6%) benign tissue sections. Heightened expression of HERV-K Gag RNA and protein appears to be a sensitive and specific biomarker of prostate malignancy in this cohort of men with prostate carcinoma, supporting its potential utility as a non-invasive, adjunct clinical biomarker.

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  • Journal: Viruses
  • Published: 10/03/2021
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 3
  • Pagination: 449