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Nature. 1990 Feb 22;343(6260):762-4.

Activation of cell growth by binding of Friend spleen focus-forming virus gp55 glycoprotein to the erythropoietin receptor.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Nine Cambridge Center, Massachusetts 02142.


Friend spleen focus-forming virus (SFFV) is a defective murine C-type retrovirus which causes a multi-stage erythroleukaemia in mice and erythroblastosis in bone marrow cultures. The SFFV env gene encodes a membrane glycoprotein, gp55, which is located on the cell surface and in the rough endoplasmic reticulum and is essential both for the induction of leukaemia in vivo and erythroblast proliferation in vitro. The mechanism by which gp55 causes increased erythroblastosis and ultimately leukaemia is unknown, but a reasonable suggestion is that gp55 can mimic the action of erythropoietin by binding to its receptor (Epo-R), thereby triggering prolonged proliferation of erythroid cells. To test this possibility, we have co-expressed gp55 and the murine Epo-R in a fibroblast cell line. We show here that in such cells, the SFFV glycoprotein binds directly to Epo-R. Furthermore, when an interleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent lymphoid cell line was co-infected by SFFV and a virus that carries the Epo-R gene, it could grow without IL-3. We suggest that through direct binding to Epo-R, gp55 can stimulate the receptor and by-pass the normal requirement for Epo, causing prolonged proliferation of infected erythroid cells. This could be the first step of leukaemogenesis induced by Friend virus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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