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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Oct 15;143(3-4):221-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2011.06.015. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

The surface glycoprotein of a natural feline leukemia virus subgroup A variant, FeLV-945, as a determinant of disease outcome.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Tulane Cancer Center, Tulane University School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Avenue SL-38, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a natural retrovirus of domestic cats associated with degenerative, proliferative and malignant diseases. Studies of FeLV infection in a cohort of naturally infected cats were undertaken to examine FeLV variation, the selective pressures operative in FeLV infection that lead to predominance of natural variants, and the consequences for infection and disease progression. A unique variant, designated FeLV-945, was identified as the predominant isolate in the cohort and was associated with non-T-cell diseases including multicentric lymphoma. FeLV-945 was assigned to the FeLV-A subgroup based on sequence analysis and receptor utilization, but was shown to differ in sequence from a prototype member of FeLV-A, designated FeLV-A/61E, in the long terminal repeat (LTR) and the surface glycoprotein gene (SU). A unique sequence motif in the FeLV-945 LTR was shown to function as a transcriptional enhancer and to confer a replicative advantage. The FeLV-945 SU protein was observed to differ in sequence as compared to FeLV-A/61E within functional domains known to determine receptor selection and binding. Experimental infection of newborn cats was performed using wild type FeLV-A/61E or recombinant FeLV-A/61E in which the LTR (61E/945L) or LTR and SU (61E/945SL) were exchanged for that of FeLV-945. Infection with either FeLV-A/61E or 61E/945L resulted in T-cell lymphoma of the thymus, although 61E/945L caused disease significantly more rapidly. In contrast, infection with 61E/945SL resulted in the rapid induction of a multicentric lymphoma of B-cell origin, thus recapitulating the outcome of natural infection and implicating FeLV-945 SU as a determinant of disease outcome. Recombinant FeLV-B was detected infrequently and at low levels in multicentric lymphomas, and was thereby not implicated in disease induction. Preliminary studies of receptor interaction indicated that virus particles bearing FeLV-945 SU bind to the FeLV-A receptor more efficiently than do particles bearing FeLV-A/61E SU, and that soluble SU proteins expressed from the viruses demonstrate the same differential binding phenotype. Preliminary mutational analysis of FeLV-945 was performed by exchanging regions containing either the primary receptor binding determinant, VRA, the secondary determinant, VRB, or a proline-rich region, PRR, with that of FeLV-A/61E. Results implicated a region containing VRA as a minor contributor, while a region containing VRB largely conferred increased binding efficiency.

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