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Genetica. 1993;91(1-3):199-209.

Genetic control of retroviral disease in aging wild mice.

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Department of Pathology, University of California, School of Medicine, Davis 95616.


Different populations of wild mice (Mus musculus domesticus) in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties were observed over their lifespan in captivity for expression of infectious murine leukemia virus (MuLV) and murine mammary tumor virus (MMTV) and for the occurrence of cancer and other diseases. In most populations of feral mice these indigenous retroviruses were infrequently expressed and cancer seldom occurred until later in life (> 2 years old). MMTV was found in the milk of about 50% of wild mice, but was associated with only a low incidence (> 1%) of breast cancer after one year of age. By contrast, in several populations, most notably at a squab farm near Lake Casitas (LC), infectious MuLV acquired at birth via milk was highly prevalent, and the infected mice were prone to leukemia and a lower motor neuron paralytic disease after one year of age. These two diseases were both caused by the same infectious (ecotropic) strain of MuLV and were the principal cause of premature death in these aging LC mice. A dominant gene called FV-4R restricting the infection with ecotropic MuLV was found segregating in LC mice. Mice inheriting this FV-4R allele were resistant to the ecotropic MuLV associated lymphoma and paralysis. The FV-4R allele represents a defective endogenous MuLV provirus DNA segment that expresses an ecotropic MuLV envelope-related glycoprotein (gp70) on the cell surface. This FV-4R encoded gp70 presumably occupies the receptor for ecotropic MuLV and blocks entry of the virus. The FV-4R gene was probably acquired by the naturally occurring crossbreeding of LC feral mice with another species of feral mice (Mus castaneus) from Southeast Asia. The FV-4R gp70 does not block entry of the amphotropic MuLV that uses a separate cell surface receptor. Therefore LC mice continued to be susceptible to the highly prevalent but weakly lymphogenic and nonparalytogenic amphotropic strain of MuLV. The study points out the potential of feral populations to reveal genes associated with specific disease resistance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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