Cell Fusions pp 395-426 | Cite as

Cell–Cell Fusions and Human Endogenous Retroviruses in Cancer

  • Reiner Strick
  • Matthias W. Beckmann
  • Pamela L. Strissel


The overall focus of this review is the characterization and functional role of cell–cell fusions in connection with human endogenous retroviruses (HERV ) in cancer. Examples of multinucleated cells presented include placental syncytiotrophoblasts, muscle myotubes, bone osteoclasts involved in normal human development and cell–cell fusions detected in tumors. Examples of multinucleated cells in various cancers include germ cell tumors, glioblastoma, melanoma, lung, breast, ovarian and endometrial carcinomas. The role of different HERV-envelope proteins mediating fusion or regulation of cells in tumors is highlighted. Although multinucleated cells are detected in various tumors, their origin, functional role and overall cellular fate are ambiguous. The effect of multiple cancer cells fusing and in contrast cancer cells fusing with somatic cells is also discussed. Understanding tumorigenesis has to ultimately link the knowledge between the function and action of multinucleated cells, cell fusion, HERVs, retroviruses and cell signalling pathways.


Cancer cell-cell fusions HERV multinucleated cells polyploidy retrovirus syncytin virus 



Alanine, serine and cysteine selective transporters


Bone marrow derived


Bone marrow derived cells


Cluster of differentiation


Epithelial fusion failure 1


Electron microscopy




Group-specific antigen




Hemolysis elevated liver enzymes low platelet count


Human endogenous retrovirus


Human immune deficiency virus


Human T-cell lymphotropic virus






Intrauterine growth restriction


Major facilitator superfamily domain containing 2


Multiple sclerosis retrovirus








RNA interference


Surface unit


Transforming growth factor


Transmembrane unit


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reiner Strick
    • 1
  • Matthias W. Beckmann
    • 1
  • Pamela L. Strissel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Laboratory for Molecular MedicineUniversity-Clinic ErlangenErlangenGermany

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