A tumor-specific endogenous repetitive element is induced by herpesviruses.
Tandem satellite repeats account for 3% of the human genome. One of them, Human Satellite II (HSATII), is highly expressed in several epithelial cancers and cancer cell lines. Here we report an acute induction of HSATII RNA in human cells infected with two herpes viruses. We show that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) IE1 and IE2 proteins cooperate to induce HSATII RNA affecting several aspects of the HCMV replication cycle, viral titers and infected-cell processes. HSATII RNA expression in tissue from two chronic HCMV colitis patients correlates with the strength of CMV antigen staining. Thus, endogenous HSATII RNA synthesis after herpesvirus infections appears to have functionally important consequences for viral replication and may provide a novel insight into viral pathogenesis. The HSATII induction seen in both infected and cancer cells suggests possible convergence upon common HSATII-based regulatory mechanisms in these seemingly disparate diseases.