In order to gain insight into the role of the major homology region (MHR) in the infectious potential of bovine leukaemia virus (BLV), mutations were introduced into the capsid gene of an infectious molecular clone. A provirus that was designed to contain only a slightly modified version of the MHR (substitution of phenylalanine 147 with a tyrosine) was still infectious in vivo. Furthermore, the provirus loads were not significantly different from those obtained with a wild-type virus. A second mutant was designed to analyse a mild modification of the MHR at the level of arginine 150. The substitution of this residue with a lysine completely destroyed the infectious potential of the recombinant virus. Finally, a third mutant that was deleted in the MHR region was unable to infect the host. Thus it appears that the integrity of the MHR domain is essential for BLV infectivity in vivo.


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