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J Virol. Feb 1991; 65(2): 904–912.
PMCID: PMC239831

Inactivation of the Moloney murine leukemia virus long terminal repeat in murine fibroblast cell lines is associated with methylation and dependent on its chromosomal position.


The expression of a retroviral vector with the Moloney murine leukemia virus (Mo-MuLV) long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter after integration into the genome of murine fibroblast cell lines was monitored with the Escherichia coli-derived beta-galactosidase (beta-gal) gene as the reporter. Monoclonal cell lines derived after retroviral infection exhibited a marked heterogeneity in their expression of the reporter gene. We studied two monoclonal cell lines with a single unrearranged copy of the vector provirus integrated into their genome. The first, BB10, expressed the marker enzyme in only 8% of its cell population, whereas in the second, BB16, beta-gal expression could be detected in over 98% of the cells. Treatment of BB10 with the DNA-demethylating agent 5-azacytidine raised the number of beta-gal-positive cells to over 60%. Transfection experiments showed that the Mo-MuLV LTR promoter-enhancer is potentially fully functional in both the BB10 and BB16 cell lines. The inactivated provirus from BB10 cells was cloned and subsequently used to generate retrovirus stocks. The promoter-enhancer activity of its LTR after infection with these BB10-derived viruses showed a variation similar to that of the original virus stocks. Our data showed that (1) inactivation of the Mo-MuLV LTR is a frequent event in murine fibroblast cell lines, (2) inactivation is associated with de novo methylation of cytidine residues, (3) the frequency of inactivation of the provirus must be determined by its chromosomal position, (4) the process of methylation of sequences within the LTR is not necessarily the same as the transcription-repression mechanism that is operating in undifferentiated embryonal carcinoma cells.

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