Frazer, J.K., Batchelor, L.A., Bradley, D.F., Brown, K.H., Dobrinski, K.P., Lee, C., and Trede, N.S. (2012) Genomic Amplification of an Endogenous Retrovirus in Zebrafish T-Cell Malignancies. Advances in hematology. 2012:627920.
Genomic instability plays a crucial role in oncogenesis. Somatically acquired mutations can disable some genes and inappropriately activate others. In addition, chromosomal rearrangements can amplify, delete, or even fuse genes, altering their functions and contributing to malignant phenotypes. Using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), a technique to detect numeric variations between different DNA samples, we examined genomes from zebrafish (Danio rerio) T-cell leukemias of three cancer-prone lines. In all malignancies tested, we identified recurring amplifications of a zebrafish endogenous retrovirus. This retrovirus, ZFERV, was first identified due to high expression of proviral transcripts in thymic tissue from larval and adult fish. We confirmed ZFERV amplifications by quantitative PCR analyses of DNA from wild-type fish tissue and normal and malignant D. rerio T cells. We also quantified ZFERV RNA expression and found that normal and neoplastic T cells both produce retrovirally encoded transcripts, but most cancers show dramatically increased transcription. In aggregate, these data imply that ZFERV amplification and transcription may be related to T-cell leukemogenesis. Based on these data and ZFERV’s phylogenetic relation to viruses of the murine-leukemia-related virus class of gammaretroviridae, we posit that ZFERV may be oncogenic via an insertional mutagenesis mechanism.