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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 22, 1994; 91(24): 11532–11536.
PMCID: PMC45265

Attenuation of bovine leukemia virus by deletion of R3 and G4 open reading frames.

Abstract

Complex oncoviruses contain, in addition to the classical retroviral genes (gag, pol, and env), a region (X) located between the envelope sequences and the 3' long terminal repeat. The X region contains two genes, tax and rex, whose protein products are involved in transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of viral expression. In addition to these activators, the bovine leukemia virus (BLV) and the human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) contain alternative open reading frames (R3 and G4 for BLV; p30, p13, and p12 for HTLV). As a virus/animal model for HTLV-induced leukemogenesis, BLV provirus can be injected intradermally into sheep, where it induced B-lymphocyte transformation. Deletion of the R3 and G4 sequences from an infectious and tumorigenic BLV provirus greatly impaired the in vivo propagation of the viruses as demonstrated by DNA polymerase chain reaction, RNA blots, structural-protein ELISA, and immunofluorescence analysis. Our results show that the alternative open reading frames are required for maintaining high virus loads during the course of persistent infection in vivo. Thus, R3 and G4 are candidates for antiviral drug development. Furthermore, viruses with a deletion in these sequences should be tested as live attenuated vaccines.

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