Unique lymphoid cell subset target to infection and proliferation induced in vitro by a murine leukemia virus

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The mechanisms by which non-oncogene bearing, slowly transforming T-cell-tropic retroviruses induce leukemia is not well understood. Viruses such as the murine radiation leukemia virus (RadLV) induce oncogenic transformation of T-cells in the thymus only in vivo and after a long latency. The capacity of RadLV to induce proliferation of lymphoid cells in vitro has been analysed here as a first attempt at mapping oncogenic transformation. Autonomously replicating cell lines have been isolated following exposure of splenic lymphocytes to two different isolates of RadLV, following in vitro culture in the presence of T-cell growth factors. Cells of similar precursor lymphoid morphology and phenotype have been isolated and cloned from cultures established from different animals. These cell lines all grow independently of exogenous growth factors in vitro, but are not tumorigenic in mice. Exposure to RadLV under the culture conditions provided has allowed integration of a new retroviral genome into each cell line, but no active replication of virus has been detected in any of the cell lines analysed. A common cell type resembling a lymphoid precursor has been induced to proliferate. These cell lines express cell surface markers attesting to their bone marrow origin, such as CD44 (Pgp-1), Gr-1, B220 and NK1.1, but they do not show the characteristics of T cells which have undergone differentiation within the thymus. They do not express the Thy-1 marker, nor show rearrangement involving any of the T-cell receptor (TCR) alpha, beta gamma or sigma genes. These cells bind several antibodies specific for the CD3-epsilon and TCR-alpha beta structures, and there appears to be aberrant expression of TCR proteins in cells bearing fully rearranged TCR genes. Precursor lymphoid cells and not mature T-cells in spleen, appear to be appropriate targets for RadLV-induced proliferation/immortalisation in vitro. Oncogenic transformation induced by RadLV in vivo may occur within precursor lymphoid cells and must be a complex process dependent on both the differentiation events which occur within the thymus, as well as the thymic environment of stromal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1992
Externally publishedYes


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