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Virology. 2002 Jun 20;298(1):84-95.

Development of feline immunodeficiency virus ORF-A (tat) mutants: in vitro and in vivo characterization.

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Retrovirus Center and Virology Section, University of Pisa, Italy.


A functional ORF-A is essential for efficient feline immunodeficiency virus replication in lymphocytes. We have characterized a series of mutants of the Petaluma strain, derived from p34TF10 and having different combinations of stop codons and increasingly long deletions in ORF-A. Six clones proved fully replicative in fibroblastoid Crandell feline kidney cells and monocyte-derived macrophage cultures but failed to replicate in T cell lines and primary lymphoblasts. Cats inoculated with three selected mutants had considerably milder infections than controls given intact ORF-A virus. In vivo, the mutants maintained growth properties similar to those in vitro for at least 7 months, except that replication in lymphoid cells was strongly reduced but not ablated. One mutant underwent extensive ORF-A changes without, however, reverting to wild-type. Antiviral immune responses were feeble in all cats, suggesting that viral loads were too low to represent a sufficiently powerful antigenic stimulus.

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