Date of Award

Fall 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Alex D. Greenwood

Committee Member

Wayne L. Hynes

Committee Member

Christopher Osgood

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B46 T57 2009


Human endogenous retroviruses make up approximately 8-9% of the human genome. A number of expressed HERVs, those that are actively transcribing, have been associated with various cancers. Suppression mechanisms that control HERV expression often fail or become more permissive in tissues where expression should be restricted. Previous studies have identified HERV expression in breast cancer tissues, whereas normal tissue HERV expression remained suppressed. In addition, studies of DNA hypermethylation have correlated with the ability to contribute to cancer development. Hypermethylation of several tumor suppressor genes occurs frequently in cancers and alterations in promoter regions could contribute to the development of renal neoplasias. Renal cell carcinomas are the most lethal urological malignancy, killing nearly 12,000 Americans annually, demonstrating a greater need for research in this field. The results presented in the study demonstrate the potential for HERV disregulation as a contributor to renal cell carcinoma. Many of the active HERVs have been reported previously as active in other cancers, most frequently in breast cancer. In addition, HTLV-1 infection in normal and tumor tissue can drastically alter HERV expression patterns. Increased transcriptional activity of the HERVs reported in this study could aid in the identification of renal cell carcinoma development and staging.


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