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J Virol. 2001 Dec;75(24):12439-45.

A unique heparin-binding domain in the envelope protein of the neuropathogenic PVC-211 murine leukemia virus may contribute to its brain capillary endothelial cell tropism.

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Basic Research Laboratory, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.


Previous studies from our laboratory demonstrated that PVC-211 murine leukemia virus (MuLV), a neuropathogenic variant of Friend MuLV (F-MuLV), had undergone genetic changes which allowed it to efficiently infect rat brain capillary endothelial cells (BCEC) in vivo and in vitro. Two amino acid changes from F-MuLV in the putative receptor binding domain (RBD) of the envelope surface protein of PVC-211 MuLV (Glu-116 to Gly and Glu-129 to Lys) were shown to be sufficient for conferring BCEC tropism on PVC-211 MuLV. Recent examination of the unique RBD of PVC-211 MuLV revealed that the substitution of Lys for Glu at position 129 created a new heparin-binding domain that overlapped a heparin-binding domain common to ecotropic MuLVs. In this study we used heparin-Sepharose columns to demonstrate that PVC-211 MuLV, but not F-MuLV, can bind efficiently to heparin and that one or both of the amino acids in the RBD of PVC-211 MuLV that are associated with BCEC tropism are responsible. We further showed that heparin can enhance or inhibit MuLV infection and that the mode of action is dependent on heparin concentration, sulfation of heparin, and the affinity of the virus for heparin. Our results suggest that the amino acid changes that occurred in the envelope surface protein of PVC-211 MuLV may allow the virus to bind strongly to the surface of BCEC via heparin-like molecules, increasing the probability that the virus will bind to its cell surface receptor and efficiently infect these cells.

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