A novel endogenous retroviral sequence (ERV-9) has been isolated from a human embryonal carcinoma cDNA library by hybridization to a probe containing a recently described human repetitive element. DNA sequence analysis of the 4kb cDNA insert (pHE.1) revealed the presence of ORFs potentially coding for putative retrovirus-related gag, pol and env proteins. Northern blot and RNase protection experiments showed that RNA homologous to the pHE.1 insert is detected only in embryonal carcinoma cells as a 8 kb mRNA, and its expression is negatively regulated during retinoic acid induced differentiation of the human teratocarcinoma cell line NT2/D1. Using a pol specific probe we have isolated a genomic locus containing the ERV-9 sequences. Characterization by restriction enzyme analysis and DNA sequencing allowed us to define LTR-like sequences, that are composed by a complex array of subrepetitive elements. In addition we show that ERV-9 LTR sequences are capable to drive expression of linked CAT gene in a cell specific manner as LTR promoter activity has been detected only in NT2/D1 cells.
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