A collection of Mov mouse strains, each carrying in their germ line a Moloney murine leukaemia virus (M-MuLV) proviral genome at a different chromosomal location, was used to study expression of endogenous retroviruses. No M-MuLV-specific RNA was detected in the non-viraemic Mov strains studied, indicating that less than two copies of RNA are transcribed per cell. Virus expression was seen in three viraemic Mov strains. In Mov-3 mice the provirus was activated shortly after birth, whereas proviruses in Mov-9 and Mov-14 were activated at different stages of embryogenesis. The results suggest that the chromosomal position influences proviral expression during development. The first appearance of virus particles was not accompanied by detectable amounts of viral transcripts, suggesting that viraemia is a consequence of provirus activation in a small, as yet unidentified, population of cells, followed by virus spread and infection of susceptible cells.

Keyword(s): Mov mice , MuLV and proviral activation

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