Ovarian cancer cells were isolated from ascites fluid of 30 different patients diagnosed with cystadenocarcinoma of ovaries. Large colonies of malignant ASC cells were observed during the first week of cell growth in vitro. Colony formation was followed by fusion of cells and formation of large multinucleated and highly vacuolated syncytia. In contrast, cells isolated from the ascites fluid produced by patients with benign mucinous cystadenoma of ovaries did not form syncytia. Nonmalignant Brenner tumor cells, isolated from the ascites fluid, also did not form syncytia. Syncytia, but not the nonmalignant tumor cells, were immunofluorescence stained with an anti-human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp120 monoclonal antibody (MAb) and MAb RAK-BrI. Both MAbs recognized cancer-associated antigens RAK (for Rakowicz markers) p120, p42, and p25. Exposure of ASC cells to either the anti-HIV-1 gp120 MAb or MAb RAK-BrI inhibited syncytium formation. PCR with HIV-1 Env-derived primers revealed DNA sequences with over 90% homology to HIV-1 gp41 in syncytia and in ovarian cancer cells but not in normal ovary cells. Electron microscopic analysis revealed viral particles, hexagonal in shape (90 nm in diameter), with a dense central core surrounded by an inner translucent capsid and dense outer shell with projections. Negative staining detected membrane-covered particles (100 to 110 nm in diameter) in the cell culture medium. Incubation of normal breast cells with viral particles resulted in drastic morphological changes and syncytium formation by the transformed breast cells. The cytopathic effects of the identified virus resembled those of spumaviruses, which, in addition to their epitopic and genetic homology to HIV-1, might suggest a common phylogeny
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