Simian virus 40 infection in humans and association with human diseases: results and hypotheses.
Virology. 2004 Jan 5;318(1):1-9. PMID: 15015494
Department of Experimental and Diagnostic Medicine, Section of Microbiology, Center of Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, I-44100, Ferrara, Italy.
Simian virus 40 (SV40) is a monkey virus that was introduced in the human population by contaminated poliovaccines, produced in SV40-infected monkey cells, between 1955 and 1963. Epidemiological evidence now suggests that SV40 may be contagiously transmitted in humans by horizontal infection, independent of the earlier administration of SV40-contaminated poliovaccines. This evidence includes detection of SV40 DNA sequences in human tissues and of SV40 antibodies in human sera, as well as rescue of infectious SV40 from a human tumor. Detection of SV40 DNA sequences in blood and sperm and of SV40 virions in sewage points to the hematic, sexual, and orofecal routes as means of virus transmission in humans. The site of latent infection in humans is not known, but the presence of SV40 in urine suggests the kidney as a possible site of latency, as it occurs in the natural monkey host. SV40 in humans is associated with inflammatory kidney diseases and with specific tumor types: mesothelioma, lymphoma, brain, and bone. These human tumors correspond to the neoplasms that are induced by SV40 experimental inoculation in rodents and by generation of transgenic mice with the SV40 early region gene directed by its own early promoter-enhancer. The mechanisms of SV40 tumorigenesis in humans are related to the properties of the two viral oncoproteins, the large T antigen (Tag) and the small t antigen (tag). Tag acts mainly by blocking the functions of p53 and RB tumor suppressor proteins, as well as by inducing chromosomal aberrations in the host cell. These chromosome alterations may hit genes important in oncogenesis and generate genetic instability in tumor cells. The clastogenic activity of Tag, which fixes the chromosome damage in the infected cells, may explain the low viral load in SV40-positive human tumors and the observation that Tag is expressed only in a fraction of tumor cells. "Hit and run" seems the most plausible mechanism to support this situation. The small tag, like large Tag, displays several functions, but its principal role in transformation is to bind the protein phosphatase PP2A. This leads to constitutive activation of the Wnt pathway, resulting in continuous cell proliferation. The possibility that SV40 is implicated as a cofactor in the etiology of some human tumors has stimulated the preparation of a vaccine against the large Tag. Such a vaccine may represent in the future a useful immunoprophylactic and immunotherapeutic intervention against human tumors associated with SV40.