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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Feb 19;99(4):2281-6.

Murine retroviruses activate B cells via interaction with toll-like receptor 4.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology/Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6142, USA.


Although most retroviruses require activated cells as their targets for infection, it is not known how this is achieved in vivo. A candidate protein for the activation of B cells by either mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) or murine leukemia virus is the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a component of the innate immune system. MMTV caused B cell activation in C3H/HeN mice but not in C3H/HeJ or BALB/c (C.C3H Tlr4(lps-d)) congenic mice, both of which have a mutant TLR4 gene. This activation was independent of viral gene expression, because it occurred after treatment of MMTV with ultraviolet light or 2,2'-dithiodipyridine and in azidothymidine-treated mice. Nuclear extracts prepared from the lymphocytes of MMTV-injected C3H/HeN but not C3H/HeJ mice showed increased nuclear factor kappaB activity. Additionally, the MMTV- and Moloney murine leukemia virus envelope proteins coimmunoprecipitated with TLR4 when expressed in 293T cells. The MMTV receptor failed to coimmunoprecipitate with TLR4, suggesting that MMTV/TLR4 interaction is independent of virus attachment and fusion. These results identify retroviral proteins that interact with a mammalian toll receptor and show that direct activation by such viruses may initiate in vivo infection pathways.

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