Localization of human herpesvirus type 8 (HHV-8) in the Kaposi's sarcoma tissues and the semen specimens of HIV-1 infected and uninfected individuals by utilizing in situ polymerase chain reaction

Lisa Bobroski, Alexander U. Bagasra, Deepa Patel, P. Saikumari, Matthew Memoli, Maureen V. Abbey, Charles Wood, Carlos Sosa, Omar Bagasra

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22 Scopus citations


Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a form of skin cancer, most commonly found in individuals suffering from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. However, before the worldwide infection of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the rare occurrence of KS was confined to two distinct groups of individuals. In the Western world, the classical form of KS was often found in older men (60-70 years of age) from the Mediterranean area. Another form called endemic KS, was found in Equatorial Africa. Currently, the most common cases of KS are found in individuals suffering from AIDS. This is called AIDS-associated KS. Between 30 and 40% of male, homosexual AIDS patients suffer from AIDS-associated KS. KS is also occasionally diagnosed in transplant patients receiving immunosuppressive drugs (to keep their body from rejecting the foreign organ). As opposed to cases of classic and endemic KS, the KS in AIDS patients progresses very quickly, often with a fatal outcome. Human herpesvirus type 8 (HHV-8) has been implicated as the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), but the exact connection of the virus to the neoplasm is not known. The virus has been detected within the sarcoma skin lesions, but has additionally been seen in peripheral blood cells, semen samples, prostate tissue, and other types of soft tissue tumors. In this study, we evaluated HHV-8 within the skin lesion of KS as well as in semen specimens obtained from HIV-1 infected and uninfected specimens from HIV-1- seronegative individuals. Twenty-eight tissue samples representing AIDS- associated, endemic KS, and six non-KS patients were collected for observation from different centers throughout the world. The tissues were examined utilizing in situ polymerase chain reaction (ISPCR) and hybridization to identify and localize the herpesvirus within the KS lesions. With the use of the sensitive ISPCR technique, HHV-8 DNA was detected in the spindle cells within the nodular skin lesions, as well as in the microvascular endothelial cells which line small vessels within the lesions in all forms of KS. In addition, we analysed semen specimens from HIV-1 infected and uninfected men, our analyses revealed that HHV-8 was present in the significant proportions of the HIV-1-infected-individuals' sperm, as well as in the mononuclear cells of the semen specimens. HHV-8 DNA was demonstrated, by ISPCR, in KS lesions as well as in seminal mononuclear cells and sperm of significantly high proportion of HIV-1-infected men. What role the presence of HHV-8 in the sperm cells plays in the sexual transmission of this herpesvirus will require further study. However, the reports which demonstrate that KS lesions can develop in infants of only a few weeks of age, increases the possibility that this agent may be vertically transmitted. It can be suggested that HHV-8 is relatively ubiquitous and its frequency increases with the increasing immunosuppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • HHV-8
  • HIV-1
  • In situ polymerase chain reaction
  • Karposi's sarcoma
  • Semen
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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