Human endothelial cells expressing polyoma middle T induce tumors

Luca Primo, Cristina Roca, Chiara Ferrandi, Luisa Lanfrancone, Federico Bussolino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The middle T oncogene of murine polyomavirus (PymT) rapidly transforms and immortalizes murine embryonic endothelial cells (EC), leading to the formation of vascular tumors in newborn mice, by recruitment of host, non-transformed EC. These tumors are reminiscent of human vascular tumors like cavernous hemangioma, Kaposi's sarcoma or those characterizing Kasabach-Merrit syndrome. Here we investigate the in vitro and in vivo behavior of human primary umbilical cord vein EC expressing PymT. While PymT has been unable to transform human fibroblasts in earlier experiments or controls done here, mT expressing EC (PymT-EC) derived by infection with pLX-PymT retrovirus induce hemangiomas in nu/nu mice. These tumors contain not only human cells but also recruited mouse EC as shown by the presence of human and murine CD31 positive EC. In vitro analysis shows that PymT-EC retain endothelial specific markers like CD31, Von Willebrand factor, and VE-cadherin, and reach the confluence without signs of overgrowth. They are also responsive to vascular endothelial growth factor-A. However, their proliferation rate is increased. The balance between urokinase-type plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 is modified; RNA and catalytic activity for the former are elevated while PAI-1 RNA is reduced. In contrast with murine model, where the PymT EC cells become immortal, the effects induced by PymT in human EC are transient. After 12-15 passages, human PymT EC stop proliferating, assume a senescent phenotype, and lose the ability to induce hemangiomas. At the same time both the amount of middle T protein and the level of activation of pp60(c-src) lower.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3632-3641
Number of pages10
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - Jul 27 2000


  • Endothelial cells
  • Hemangioma
  • Human
  • Middle T
  • Polyomavirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


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