Recombination between feline leukemia virus subgroup B or C and endogenous env elements alters the in vitro biological activities of the viruses
Journal of Virology
An important question in feline leukemia virus (FeLV) pathogenesis is whether, as in murine leukemia virus infection, homologous recombination between the infecting FeLV and the noninfectious endogenous FeLV-like proviruses serves as a significant base for the generation of proximal pathogens. To begin an analysis of this issue, several recombinant FeLVs were produced by using two different approaches: (i) the regions of the viral envelope (env) gene of a cloned FeLV (subgroup B virus [FeLV-B],
... p B virus [FeLV-B], Gardner-Arnstein strain) and those of two different endogenous proviral loci were exchanged to create specific FeLV chimeras, and (ii) vectors containing endogenous env and molecularly cloned infectious FeLV-C (Sarma strain) DNA sequences were coexpressed by transfection in nonfeline cells to facilitate recombination. The results of these combined approaches showed that up to three-fourths of the envelope glycoprotein (gp7O), beginning from the N-terminal end, could be replaced by endogenous FeLV sequences to produce biologically active chimeric FeLVs. The in vitro replication efficiency or cell tropism of the recombinants appeared to be influenced by the amount of gp7O sequences replaced by the endogenous partner as well as by the locus of origin of the endogenous sequences. Additionally, a characteristic biological effect, aggregation of feline T-lymphoma cells (3201B cell line), was found to be specifically induced by replicating FeLV-C or FeLV-C-based recombinants. Multiple crossover sites in the gp7O protein selected under the conditions used for coexpression were identified. The results of induced coexpression were also supported by rapid generation of FeLV recombinants when FeLV-C was used to infect the feline 3201B cell line that constitutively expresses high levels of endogenous FeLV-specific mRNAs. Furthermore, a large, highly conserved open reading frame in the pol gene of an endogenous FeLV provirus was identified. This observation, particularly in reference to our earlier finding of extensive mutations in the gag gene, reveals a target area for potentiafly productive homologous recombination upstream of the functional endogenous env gene.