• melanoma;
  • human endogenous retrovirus type K;
  • ultraviolet radiation


Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) represent a cellular reservoir of potentially pathogenic retroviral genes. A growing body of evidence indicates that the activation of endogenous retroviral sequences might be involved in the transformation of melanocytes. In this study, we investigated the effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on the expression of human endogenous retrovirus type K (HERV-K) in melanoma cells and non-melanoma cells in vitro. Solely in melanoma cell lines, irradiation with UVB (200 mJ/cm2) resulted in a significant transcriptional activation of the retroviral pol gene as well as in an enhanced expression of the retroviral envelope protein (env). In addition, UVB treatment induced the production of retroviral particles in the supernatants of melanoma cell lines. These data indicate that HERV-K expression can be activated by UVB irradiation and suggest an involvement of HERV-K in UVR-related melanoma pathogenesis.