Proviral ALV-LTR sequence is essential for continued proliferation of the ALV-transformed B cell line

Avian leukosis virus (ALV) induces B-cell lymphomas and other malignancies in chickens through insertional activation of oncogenes, and c-myc activation has been commonly identified in ALV-induced tumors. Using ALV-transformed B-lymphoma-derived HP45 cell line, we applied in situ CRISPR-Cas9 editing of integrated proviral long terminal repeat (LTR) to examine the effects on gene expression and cell proliferation. Targeted deletion of LTR resulted in significant reduction in expression of a number of LTR-regulated genes including c-myc. LTR deletion also induced apoptosis of HP45 cells, affecting their proliferation, demonstrating the significance of LTR-mediated regulation of critical genes. Compared to the global effects on expression and functions of multiple genes in LTR-deleted cells, deletion of c-myc had a major effect on the HP45 cells proliferation with the phenotype similar to the LTR deletion, demonstrating the significance of c-myc expression in ALV-induced lymphomagenesis. Overall, our studies have not only shown the potential of targeted editing of the LTR for the global inhibition of retrovirus-induced transformation, but also have provided insights into the roles of LTR-regulated genes in ALV-induced neoplastic transformation.

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