Simian virus 40
Virus classification
Group: Group I (dsDNA)
Family: Polyomaviridae
Genus: Polyomavirus
Species: Simian virus 40
Classification and external resources
MeSH D027601

SV40 is an abbreviation for Simian vacuolating virus 40 or Simian virus 40, a polyomavirus that is found in both monkeys and humans. Like other polyomaviruses, SV40 is a DNA virus that has the potential to cause tumors, but most often persists as a latent infection.

SV40 became a highly controversial subject after it was revealed that millions were exposed to the virus after receiving a contaminated polio vaccine.[1]



The virus was first identified in 1960 in cultures of rhesus monkey kidney cells that were being used to produce polio vaccine. It was named for the effect it produced on infected green monkey cells, which developed an unusual number of vacuoles. The complete viral genome was sequenced by Walter Fiers and his team at the University of Ghent (Belgium) in 1978.[2] The virus is dormant and is asymptomatic in Rhesus monkeys. The virus has been found in many macaque populations in the wild, where it rarely causes disease. However, in monkeys that are immunodeficient—due to, for example, infection with Simian immunodeficiency virus—SV40 acts much like the human JC and BK polyomaviruses, producing kidney disease and sometimes a demyelinating disease similar to PML. In other species, particularly hamsters, SV40 causes a variety of tumors, generally sarcomas. In rats, the oncogenic SV40 Large T-antigen was used to establish a brain tumor model for PNETs and medulloblastomas.[3]

The molecular mechanisms by which the virus reproduces and alters cell function were previously unknown, and research into SV40 vastly increased biologists' understanding of gene expression and the regulation of cell growth.


SV40 consists of an unenveloped icosahedral virion with a closed circular dsDNA genome of 5kb. The virion adheres to cell surface receptors of MHC class 1 by the virion glycoprotein VP1. Penetration into the cell is through a caveolin vesicle. Inside the cell nucleus, the cellular RNA polymerase II acts to promote early gene expression. This results in an mRNA that is spliced into two segments. The small and large T antigens result from this. The large T antigen has two functions: 5% will go to the plasma membrane of the cell and 95% will return to the nucleus. Once in the nucleus the large T antigen binds three viral DNA sites, I, II, and III. Binding of sites I, and II autoregulates early RNA synthesis. Binding to site II takes place in each cell cycle. Binding site I initiates DNA replication at the origin of replication. Early transcription gives two spliced RNAs that are both 19s. Late transcription gives both a longer 16s, which synthesizes the major viral capsid protein VP1; and the smaller 19s, which gives Vp2, and Vp3 through leaky scanning. All of the proteins, besides the 5% of large T, return to the nucleus because assembly of the viral particle happens in the nucleus. Eventual release of the viral particles is cytolytic and results in cell death.[citation needed]


The early promoter for SV40 contains three elements. The TATA box is located approximately 20 base-pairs upstream from the transcriptional start site. The 21 base-pair repeats contain six GC boxes and are the site that determines the direction of transcription. Also, the 72 base-pair repeats are transcriptional enhancers. When the SP1 protein interacts with the 21 bp repeats it binds either the first or the last three GC boxes. Binding of the first three initiates early expression and binding of the last three initiates late expression. The function of the 72 bp repeats is to enhance the amount of stable RNA and increase the rate of synthesis. This is done by binding (dimerization) with the AP1 (activator protein 1) to give a primary transcript that is 3' polyadenylated and 5' capped.

Theorized role in human disease

The hypothesis that SV40 might cause cancer in humans has been a particularly controversial area of research.[4] Several different methods have been used to detect SV40 in a variety of human cancers, although how reliable these detection methods are, and whether SV40 has any role in causing these tumors, remains unclear.[5] As a result of these uncertainties, academic opinion remains divided, with some arguing that this hypothesis is not supported by the data,[6] and others arguing that some cancers may involve SV40.[7][8] However, the United States National Cancer Institute announced in 2004 that although SV40 does cause cancer in some animal models, "substantial epidemiological evidence has accumulated to indicate that SV40 likely does not cause cancer in humans".[9] This announcement is based on two recent studies.[10][11]

p53 Damage and carcinogenicity

SV40 is believed to suppress the transcriptional properties of the tumor-suppressing p53 in humans through the SV40 Large T-antigen and SV40 Small T-antigen. p53 is responsible for initiating regulated cell death ("apoptosis"), or cell cycle arrest when a cell is damaged. A mutated p53 gene may contribute to uncontrolled cellular proliferation, leading to a tumor.

SV40 may act as a co-carcinogen with crocidolite to cause both Peritoneal and Pleural Mesothelioma [12] (review [13]).

When SV40 infects nonpermissive cells, such as 3T3 mouse cells, the dsDNA of SV40 becomes covalently integrated. In nonpermissive cells only the early gene expression occurs and this leads to transformation, or oncogenesis. The nonpermissive host needs the Large T-antigen and the Small t-antigen in order to function. The Small T-antigen interacts with and integrates with the cellular phosphatase pp2A. This causes the cell to lose the ability to initiate transcription.

Polio vaccine contamination

Soon after its discovery, SV40 was identified in the injected form of the polio vaccine produced between 1955 and 1961. This is believed to be due to kidney cells from infected monkeys being used to amplify the vaccine virus during production. Both the Sabin vaccine (oral, live virus) and the Salk vaccine (injectable, killed virus) were affected; the technique used to inactivate the polio virus in the Salk vaccine, by means of formaldehyde, did not reliably kill SV40.

It was difficult to detect small quantities of virus until the advent of PCR; since then, stored samples of vaccine made after 1962 have tested negative for SV40, but no samples prior to 1962 could be found. Thus, although over 10 million people received the potentially contaminated batches of vaccine, there is no way to know whether they were exposed to the virus, and if so, whether it was in a quantity and by a route that would cause infection. It is also unknown how widespread the virus was among humans before the 1950s, though one study found that 12% of a sample of German medical students in 1952 had SV40 antibodies. Although horizontal transmission between people has been proposed, is not clear if this actually happens and if it does, how frequently it occurs.[14]

An analysis presented at the Vaccine Cell Substrate Conference in 2004[15] suggested that vaccines used in the former Soviet bloc countries, China, Japan, and Africa, could have been contaminated up to 1980, meaning that hundreds of millions more could have been exposed to the virus unknowingly.

Treatment in the popular press

Claims have been made detailing the controversy surrounding SV40 research.[16][17][18] One book by a pair of investigative journalists contains statements indicating that researchers were penalized for reporting the findings of a potential cause and effect relationship between the early polio vaccine, SV40 and cancer.[19] The book further alleges falsification of research due to financial conflicts of interest.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Le Page, Michael (2004-06-10). "Does SV40 contamination matter?". New Scientist. Retrieved 2010-03-29. "More than 40 years after SV40 was first discovered, in polio vaccine, these crucial questions remain fiercely controversial." 
  2. ^ Fiers W et al., Complete nucleotide-sequence of SV40 DNA, Nature, 273, 113-120, 1978
  3. ^ Eibl RH, Kleihues P, Jat PS, Wiestler OD (1994) A model for primitive neuroectodermal tumors in transgenic neural transplants harboring the SV40 large T antigen. Am J Pathol. 1994 Mar;144(3):556-64
  4. ^ Poulin DL, DeCaprio JA (2006). "Is there a role for SV40 in human cancer?". J. Clin. Oncol. 24 (26): 4356–65. doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.03.7101. PMID 16963733. 
  5. ^ Lowe DB, Shearer MH, Jumper CA, Kennedy RC (2007). "SV40 association with human malignancies and mechanisms of tumor immunity by large tumor antigen". Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 64 (7-8): 803–14. doi:10.1007/s00018-007-6414-6. PMID 17260087. 
  6. ^ Shah KV (2007). "SV40 and human cancer: a review of recent data". Int. J. Cancer 120 (2): 215–23. doi:10.1002/ijc.22425. PMID 17131333. 
  7. ^ Moens U, Van Ghelue M, Johannessen M (2007). "Oncogenic potentials of the human polyomavirus regulatory proteins". Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 64 (13): 1656–78. doi:10.1007/s00018-007-7020-3. PMID 17483871. 
  8. ^ Barbanti-Brodano G, Sabbioni S, Martini F, Negrini M, Corallini A, Tognon M (2004). "Simian virus 40 infection in humans and association with human diseases: results and hypotheses". Virology 318 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1016/j.virol.2003.09.004. PMID 15015494. 
  9. ^ Studies Find No Evidence That SV40 is Related to Human Cancer, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health website, Posted: 08/23/2004, Updated: 03/01/2005
  10. ^ Antibody Responses to Simian Virus 40 T Antigen: A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Eric A. Engels, Jinbo Chen, Patricia Hartge, James R. Cerhan, Scott Davis, Richard K. Severson, Wendy Cozen and Raphael P. Viscidi, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention Vol. 14, 521-524, February 2005
  11. ^ Cancer Incidence in Denmark Following Exposure to Poliovirus Vaccine Contaminated With Simian Virus 40, Eric A. Engels, Hormuzd A. Katki, Nete M. Nielsen, Jeanette F. Winther, Henrik Hjalgrim, Flemming Gjerris, Philip S. Rosenberg, Morten Frisch, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 95, No. 7, 532-539, April 2, 2003
  12. ^ Kroczynska, B; Cutrone R, Bocchetta M, Yang H, Elmishad A, Vacek P, Ramos-Nino M, Mossman B, Pass H, Carbone M (2006). "Crocidolite asbestos and SV40 are cocarcinogens in human mesothelial cells and in causing mesothelioma in hamsters". PNAS 103 (38): 14128–33. doi:10.1073/pnas.0604544103. PMC 1599923. PMID 16966607. 
  13. ^ Pershouse M, Heivly S, Girtsman T (2006). "The role of SV40 in malignant mesothelioma and other human malignancies". Inhal Toxicol 18 (12): 995–1000. doi:10.1080/08958370600835377. PMID 16920674. 
  14. ^ Martini F, Corallini A, Balatti V, Sabbioni S, Pancaldi C, Tognon M (2007). "Simian virus 40 in humans". Infect. Agents Cancer 2: 13. doi:10.1186/1750-9378-2-13. PMC 1941725. PMID 17620119. 
  15. ^ Vaccine scandal revives cancer fear, Debbie Bookchin, New Scientist, 07 July 2004
  16. ^ Rogue virus in the vaccine: Early polio vaccine harbored virus now feared to cause cancer in humans, William Carlsen, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, July 15, 2001
  17. ^ The Virus and the Vaccine, The Reading Room, WNYC website.
  18. ^ The Virus and the Vaccine, Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, Atlantic Monthly, February 2000.
  19. ^ The Virus and the Vaccine, Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, St. Martin's Press, 2004, ISBN 0-3122-7872-1
  20. ^ The Virus and the Vaccine official website

External links


NIH 1997 Conference on SV40


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SV40 — (no periods), Simian Virus 40, a virus that causes cancer in monkeys, widely used in genetic and medical research: »SV40 carries its genetic blueprint on a single circular piece of DNA, the viral chromosome. So far five genes have been identified …   Useful english dictionary

  • SV40 — SV40. См. вирус обезьян 40. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • SV40 — SV40. = simian virus (см.). (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • SV40 — (ĕs vē fôrʹtē) n. A virus that causes cancers in monkeys and that is used widely in genetic and medical research.   [s(imian) v(irus) 40.] * * * …   Universalium

  • SV40 — Simianes Virus 40 Systematik Reich: Viren Baltimore K. (dsDNA Viren) I Ordnung: N/A Familie: Polyomaviridae Gattung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • SV40 — Virus simien 40 SV40 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • SV40 — Symbol for simian vacuolating virus No. 40. * * * simian vacuolating virus 40 * * * SV40 .es .vē fȯrt ē n SIMIAN VIRUS (40) * * * simian virus 40 …   Medical dictionary

  • SV40 — (= simian virus 40) A small DNA tumour virus, member of the Papovaviridae. Isolated from monkey cells, which were being used for the preparation of poliovirus vaccine, and originally named ‘vacuolating agent’ owing to a cytopathic effect observed …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • SV40 — • simian vacuolating virus 40 …   Dictionary of medical acronyms & abbreviations

  • SV40 — Simian virus 40. A virus that infects some types of monkeys. It may also infect humans, and was found in some polio vaccines tested in the early 1960s. Although the virus has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, there is no evidence… …   English dictionary of cancer terms