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J Virol. Dec 1993; 67(12): 7096–7105.
PMCID: PMC238171

Pathogenicity of molecularly cloned bovine leukemia virus.


To delineate the mechanisms of bovine leukemia virus (BLV) pathogenesis, four full-length BLV clones, 1, 8, 9, and 13, derived from the transformed cell line FLK-BLV and a clone construct, pBLV913, were introduced into bovine spleen cells by microinjection. Microinjected cells exhibited cytopathic effects and produced BLV p24 and gp51 antigens and infectious virus. The construct, pBLV913, was selected for infection of two sheep by inoculation of microinjected cells. After 15 months, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from these sheep served as inocula for the transfer of infection to four additional sheep. All six infected sheep seroconverted to BLV and had detectable BLV DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells after amplification by polymerase chain reaction. Four of the six sheep developed altered B/T-lymphocyte ratios between 33 and 53 months postinfection. One sheep died of unrelated causes, and one remained hematologically normal. Two of the affected sheep developed B lymphocytosis comparable to that observed in animals inoculated with peripheral blood mononuclear cells from BLV-infected cattle. This expanded B-lymphocyte population was characterized by elevated expression of B-cell surface markers, spontaneous blastogenesis, virus expression in vitro, and increased, polyclonally integrated provirus. One of these two sheep developed lymphocytic leukemia-lymphoma at 57 months postinfection. Leukemic cells had the same phenotype and harbored a single, monoclonally integrated provirus but produced no virus after in vitro cultivation. The range in clinical response to in vivo infection with cloned BLV suggests an important role for host immune response in the progression of virus replication and pathogenesis.

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