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J Virol. Apr 1995; 69(4): 2024–2030.
PMCID: PMC188867

Characterization of an infectious molecular clone of human T-cell leukemia virus type I.


An infectious molecular clone of human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) was derived from an HTLV-I-transformed rabbit T-cell line, RH/K30, obtained by coculture of rabbit peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) with the human HTLV-I-transformed cell line MT-2. The RH/K30 cell line contained two integrated proviruses, an intact HTLV-I genome and an apparently defective provirus with an in-frame stop codon in the env gene. A genomic DNA fragment containing the intact HTLV-I provirus was cloned into bacteriophage lambda (K30 phi) and subcloned into a plasmid vector (K30p). HTLV-I p24gag protein was detected in culture supernatants of human and rabbit T-cell and fibroblast lines transfected with these clones, at levels comparable to those of the parental cell line RH/K30. Persistent expression of virus was observed in one of these lines, RL-5/K30p, for more than 24 months. Biologic characterization of this cell line revealed the presence of integrated HTLV-I provirus, spliced and unspliced mRNA transcripts, and typical extracellular type C retrovirus particles. As expected, these virus particles contained HTLV-I RNA and reverse transcriptase activity. The transfected cells also expressed surface major histocompatibility complex class II, whereas no expression of this molecule was detected in the parental RL-5 cell line. Virus was passaged by cocultivation of irradiated RL-5/K30p cells with either rabbit PBMC or human cord blood mononuclear cells, demonstrating in vitro infectivity. The virus produced in these cells was also infectious in vivo, since rabbits injected with RL-5/K30p cells became productively infected, as evidenced by seroconversion, amplification of HTLV-I-specific sequences by PCR from PBMC DNA, and virus isolation from PBMC. Availability of infectious molecular clones will facilitate functional studies of HTLV-I genes and gene products.

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Selected References

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