We have previously reported that among a series of human tumours investigated, only human teratocarcinoma cell lines derived from testicular tumours or pulmonary metastases of patients in Germany and the U.S.A. produced retrovirus-like particles spontaneously, albeit in low amounts. In a recent publication electron microscopical data suggested that the human teratocarcinoma-derived (HTD) particles were morphologically closely related, but not identical, to the type C retroviruses of animals. In this communication, the explantation of three human teratocarcinoma cell lines is briefly described. Evidence is presented that HTD particles (i) are synthesized only in a fraction of the epithelioid and differentiating cells; (ii) can be induced biochemically in a manner characteristic of retroviruses; (iii) either are not infectious or possess a peculiar host range; (iv) are immunologically unrelated to animal retrovirus strains; (v) possess an endogenous RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity that can be banded at 1.16 g/ml in linear sucrose gradients. These results may be taken as suggestive evidence that HTD particles represent a novel group of unique retroviruses.


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