Hemangiomas are localized tumors of vascular cells which appear frequently in humans and animals, and their mode of induction is unknown. Recently, a new field strain of avian retrovirus, avian hemangioma virus (AHV), was isolated from spontaneous hemangiomas in layer hens. Sequence analysis of the AHV genome revealed the presence of three prototypic retroviral genes, gag, pol, and env, but no oncogenes. AHV was capable of inducing hemangiomas in hens in vivo, but it induced a strong cytopathic effect in cultured endothelial cells. The AHV envelope glycoprotein, gp85, was found to be responsible for the cell-killing effect. Four independent lines of experimental evidence indicated that AHV induces a cytopathic effect through a typical programmed cell death, apoptosis: (i) morphological changes in cells visualized by light microscopy, (ii) nuclear condensation and fragmentation indicated by 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole staining, (iii) intranucleosomal degradation of DNA demonstrated by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end-labeling staining, and (iv) flow cytometry analysis of the DNA content of the infected cells. Quiescent endothelial G0/G1 cells were much more sensitive to AHV-induced apoptosis than actively dividing cells, suggesting that the AHV ability to induce apoptosis is dependent on the proliferative state of the infected cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the Israeli Academy of Sciences. We thank H. Falk for her help and useful suggestions.