Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) is a potential pathogen in clinical xenotransplantation; transmission of PERV in vivo has been suggested in murine xenotransplantation models. We analyzed the transmission of PERV to human cells in vivo using a model in which immunodeficient NOD/SCID transgenic mice were transplanted with porcine and human lymphohematopoietic tissues. Our results demonstrate, we believe for the first time, that human and pig cells can coexist long-term (up to 25 weeks) without direct PERV infection of human cells. Despite the transplantation of porcine cells that did not produce human-tropic PERV, human cells from the chimeric mice were frequently found to contain PERV sequences. However, this transmission was due to the pseudotyping of PERV-C (a virus without human tropism) by xenotropic murine leukemia virus, rather than to de novo generation of human-tropic PERV. Thus, pseudotyping might account for the PERV transmission previously observed in mice. The absence of direct human cell infection following long-term in vivo coexistence with large numbers of porcine cells provides encouragement regarding the potential safety of using pigs that do not produce human-tropic PERV as source animals for transplantation to humans.
Yong-Guang Yang, James C. Wood, Ping Lan, Robert A. Wilkinson, Megan Sykes, Jay A. Fishman, Clive Patience