Tissue-specific replication of Friend and Moloney murine leukemia viruses in infected mice

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Journal of Virology





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We have studied the replication of ecotropic murine leukemia viruses (MuLV) in the spleens and thymuses of mice infected with the lymphocytic leukemia-inducing virus Moloney MuLV (M-MuLV), with the erythroleukemia-inducing virus Friend MuLV (F-MuLV), or with in vitro-constructed recombinants between these viruses in which the long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences have been exchanged. At 1 week after infection both the parents and the LTR recombinants replicated predominantly in the spleens with only low levels of replication in the thymus. At 2 weeks after infection, the patterns of replication in the spleens and thymuses were strongly influenced by the type of LTR. Viruses containing the M-MuLV LTR exhibited a remarkable elevation in thymus titers which frequently exceeded the spleen titers, whereas viruses containing the F-MuLV LTR replicated predominantly in the spleen. In older preleukemic mice (5 to 8 weeks of age) the structural genes of M-MuLV or F-MuLV predominantly influenced the patterns of replication. Viruses containing the structural genes of M-MuLV replicated efficiently in both the spleen and thymus, whereas viruses containing the structural genes of F-MuLV replicated predominantly in the spleen. In leukemic mice infected with the recombinant containing F-MuLV structural genes and the M-MuLV LTR, high levels of virus replication were observed in splenic tumors but not in thymic tumors. This phenotypic difference suggested that tumors of the spleen and thymus may have originated by the independent transformation of different cell types. Quantification of polytropic MulVs in late-preleukemic mice infected with each of the ecotropic MuLVs indicated that the level of polytropic MuLV replication closely paralleled the level of replication of the ecotropic MuLVs in all instances. These studies indicated that determinants of tissue tropism are contained in both the LTR and structural gene sequences of F-MuLV and M-MuLV and that high levels of ecotropic or polytropic MuLV replication, per se, are not sufficient for leukemia induction. Our results further suggested that leukemia induction requires a high level of virus replication in the target organ only transiently during an early preleukemic stage of disease.