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Haematol Blood Transfus. 1979;23:453-86.

Leukemia specific antigens: FOCMA and immune surveillance.


In cats, horizontally transmitted viruses cause leukemia and lymphoma under natural conditions. As with other retroviruses, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) contains products of 3 major genes; the virus core gag gene products, the polymerase, and the virus envelope glycoprotein. When cells are transformed in vitro by the related feline sarcoma virus (FeSV), an additional protein, FOCMA is expressed at the cell membrane. FOCMA, which is FeSV-coded, is transformation and/or tumor specific and expressed regardless of whether or not the cells make virus or contain virus structural antigens. Lymphoid leukemia cells also express FOCMA, both when FeLV is used to induce the disease in laboratory cats and when the tumors occur under natural conditions. FOCMA is expressed on both T and B lymphoid leukemia cells, but not expressed on non-malignant lymphoid cells, even when they are infected with FeLV. About one-third of the naturally occurring lymphoid tumors of cats lack detectable FeLV proteins and varying portions of the FeLV provirus. Despite this, they regularly express FOCMA, which is the target of an immuno-surveillance response that functions effectively under most conditions. FOCMA thus provides a useful model for antigens that might be expressed in "virus-negative" leukemias of man.

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