The discovery of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) has raised concerns regarding the safety of porcine xenotransplantation. However, transmission of PERV had not been observed in humans exposed to porcine tissue. We examined whether PERV derived from porcine pancreatic islet cells could infect human cells in vivo and the role of natural antibodies in inhibiting PERV infection. In vivo infective potential of PERV was studied in SCID mice reconstituted with human peripheral blood leucocytes. Porcine islets were transplanted under the kidney capsule. PERV infection was determined by analyzing PERV gene expression in graft infiltrating lymphocytes (GIL) harvested 21 days posttransplantation. Mice were administered normal human serum prior to and 2 days posttransplantation to study their role in protection of human cells against PERV infection. PERV genes were expressed in all porcine tissues examined, including purified porcine islets. PERV expression was detected in GILs from three of five human-SCID mice. Administration of human serum blocked PERV infection in GILs in five of five human-SCID mice. These results indicate that PERV from porcine islets can infect human cells in vivo. Normal human serum blocks transmission of retrovirus in vivo, suggesting that natural xenoreactive antibodies can prevent PERV infection.
- Natural antibodies
- Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV)
- Porcine islets
- Real-time PCR