One mechanism by which viral tropism may be controlled is by the expression of a specific virus receptor on the cell surface. This paper reports the identification of a putative cellular receptor for visna virus, the prototype virus of the family . Using a virus overlay protein blot assay we identified a group of polypeptides of apparent 30K to 33K which interacts with visna virus and is present on permissive but not non-permissive cells. A rat polyclonal anti-ovine major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigen (Ag) serum raised to immunopurified MHC class II Ag, but not preimmune serum, blocked the interaction of visna virus with these polypeptides. In an ELISA, immunopurified MHC class II Ag bound to visna virus but not to bovine parainfluenza 3 virus. Preincubation of visna virus with immunopurified soluble MHC class II Ag resulted in a marked decrease in virus-induced syncytium formation, i.e. preincubation with class II Ag inhibited infection with visna virus, but we have been unable to inhibit infection using class II Ag-specific antisera. These results suggest that ovine MHC class II Ag acts as a component of a cellular receptor for visna virus. This is of particular interest owing to the close similarities between visna virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the relationship between MHC class II and CD4, the cellular receptor for HIV. It is also of relevance to recent reports that a growing number of viruses utilize polypeptides of the Ig supergene family as receptors.


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