Embryonal carcinoma (EC) cell lines established from human testicular germ-cell tumours produce, at low frequency, virions morphologically identical to type C retroviruses that have been observed by other workers in human placental tissues. The virus particles are formed while budding from the cell surface, and their numbers are increased by inducing the EC cells with 5-iodo-2′-deoxyuridine and dexamethasone. Assays for RNA-dependent DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) associated with purified virions suggested a low level of activity. In addition, another type of virus is occasionally produced by induced cells of three EC lines. These particles also form during the process of budding from the cell surface, but they have surface projections (spikes). Extracellular spiked virions frequently are pleomorphic, with a condensed, eccentric nucleoid, and thus morphologically resemble type B retroviruses. No virions of either type were detected with or without induction in cultures of differentiated EC cells or in cultures of yolk sac carcinoma or teratoma cells, both of which are considered malignant but differentiated derivatives of EC cells. The lack of virion production by these differentiated cells suggests developmental regulation of virus replication.


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