The HERV-K accessory protein Np9 controls viability and migration of teratocarcinoma cells

Susana M. Chan, Tamar Sapir, Sung-Soo Park, Jean-Francois Rual, Rafael Contreras-Galindo, Orly Reiner, David M. Markovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human endogenous retroviruses are remnants of ancient germline infections that make up approximately 8% of the modern human genome. The HERV-K (HML-2) family is one of the most recent entrants into the human germline, these viruses appear to be transcriptionally active, and HERV-K viral like particles (VLPs) are found in cell lines from a number of human malignancies. HERV-K VLPs were first found to be produced in teratocarcinoma cell lines, and since then teratocarcinoma has been thought of as the classical model for HERVKs, with the NCCIT teratocarcinoma cell line particularly known to produce VLPs. Treatment for teratocarcinoma has progressed since its discovery, with improved prognosis for patients. Since the introduction of platinum based therapy, first year survival has greatly improved even with disseminated disease; however, it is estimated that 20% to 30% of patients present with metastatic germ cell tumor relapse following initial treatments. Also, the toxicity associated with the use of chemotherapeutic agents used to treat germ cell tumors is still a major concern. In this study, we show that the depletion of the HERV-K accessory protein Np9 increases the sensitivity of NCCIT teratocarcinoma cells to bleomycin and cisplatin. While decreasing the expression of Np9 had only a modest effect on the baseline viability of the cells, the reduced expression of Np9 increased the sensitivity of the teratocarcinoma cells to environmental (serum starvation) and chemical (chemotherapeutic) stresses. Np9 is also essential to the migration of NCCIT teratocarcinoma cells: in a wound closure assay, reduced expression of Np9 resulted in cells migrating into the wound at a slower rate, whereas reintroduction of Np9 resulted in NCCIT cells migrating back into the wound in a manner similar to the control. These findings support the implication that the HERV-K accessory protein Np9 has oncogenic potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0212970
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 28 Feb 2019


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