The retrovirus XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virusrelated virus) has been detected in human prostate tumors and in blood samples from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, but these findings have not been replicated. We hypothesized that an understanding of when and how XMRV first arose might help explain the discrepant results. We studied human prostate cancer cell lines CWR22Rv1 and CWR-R1, which produce XMRV virtually identical to the viruses recently found in patient samples, as well as their progenitor human prostate tumor xenograft (CWR22) that had been passaged in mice. We detected XMRV infection in the two cell lines and in the later passage xenografts, but not in the early passages. In particular, we found that the host mice contained two proviruses, PreXMRV-1 and PreXMRV-2, which share 99.92% identity with XMRV over >3.2-kilobase stretches of their genomes. We conclude that XMRV was not present in the original CWR22 tumor but was generated by recombination of two proviruses during tumor passaging in mice. The probability that an identical recombinant was generated independently is negligible (~1012); our results suggest that the association of XMRV with human disease is due to contamination of human samples with virus originating from this recombination event.
"After the reports of XMRV in human prostate cancer, and later of XMRV in people with CFS, retrovirologists all over the world were excited to explore its role in human infection and disease. The results published today are not what we would have expected, but due to the time and resources dedicated to the understanding of this virus by researchers at NCI and NIH as well as others, scientists can now concentrate on identifying the real causes of these diseases," said Pathak.