A porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) has been shown to infect human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK293) cells in vitro. The PERV proviral sequence exists in the genome of all porcine cells, including hepatocytes used in a bioartificial liver (BAL). We examined the possibility of PERV infection in HEK293 cells during exposure to supernatant from cultured pig hepatocytes. Pig hepatocytes were cultured in media supplemented with serum from patients in fulminant hepatic failure (FHF) to simulate conditions of an extracorporeal BAL. Pig hepatocytes were cultured in serum-free media for 24 hours and then exposed to fresh medium containing serum from a patient with FHF (22 patients tested). Twenty-four hours later, supernatant was collected and analyzed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), with and without reverse transcriptase. Primers targeting the pol gene of PERV were used for PCR. Products of amplification were detected by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay-based technique using an internal capture probe also targeting the pol gene. Levels of PERV sequences were estimated by serial dilution. All positive samples were tested for infectivity in HEK293 cells. Porcine kidney 15 cell supernatant and fresh culture media were studied as positive and negative controls, respectively. Pig hepatocytes were also studied in the absence of FHF sera and in the presence of mitogenic stimulation with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA). PERV DNA and PERV RNA were detected in all supernatants of cultured pig hepatocytes. The level of PERV RNA in the supernatant of pig hepatocytes was not altered by exposure to human FHF serum or stimulation with PHA and PMA. In addition, PERV RNA was undetectable in the supernatant of HEK293 cells for up to 50 days after exposure to pig hepatocyte supernatant (with or without FHF sera). These findings show that production of PERV by cultured pig hepatocytes was unaffected by exposure to growth factors and cytokines present in human FHF sera. (C) 2000 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
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