Organs of RIII mice at various physiological stages were tested for mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) antigen expression. Indirect immunofluorescence was used with three monospecific antisera to localize one envelope glycoprotein, gp47, and two core proteins, p28 and p8. These virus-specific antigens gave characteristic fluorescent patterns in the mammary tissues and were also detected in thymus and salivary gland sections of some mice. The amounts of antigens gp47 and p28 were measured by immunoassay in sera and organ extracts of corresponding samples of mice. Sera of mice of both sexes contained virus antigens from the suckling age onwards. Although ingested virus could be traced in suckling mice, weanlings were characterized by the absence of virus expression except in lymph nodes. This location points to the possible role of lymphoid tissue in producing the antigens of the blood and in disseminating the infection. In adult animals, virus antigens were present in salivary glands, digestive tract, lymph nodes, male genital organs and female mammary glands. Antigen expression, even found in the mammary glands of virgin mice, was strikingly increased by pregnancy, lactation and (or) ageing, the highest values being found in mammary tumours. The results for milk-borne MMTV infection in RIII mice are compared with those obtained previously in Swiss albino mice.


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