Antibodies against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline oncornavirus-associated cell membrane antigen (FOCMA) were transferred from pregnant cats to their suckling kittens. All of these kittens were protected against infection and oncogenesis by virulent FeLV when challenged at 2 weeks of age. Suckling kittens acquired 25 to 100% of maternal virus-neutralizing and FOCMA titers by 3 days of age, and titers underwent linear decay to undetectable levels by 2 to 3 months of age. FOCMA antibody in dams and kittens was identified as immunoglobulin G (IgG) by use of goat anti-human IgG serum, which cross-reacts with feline IgG in the indirect membrane immunofluorescence test for FOCMA antibody. In an attempt to induce protective maternal antibody by vaccination, 10 pregnant cats were immunized by three to five weekly intramuscular injections with purified FeLV inactivated by ultraviolet irradiation. After the course of immunization, neither virus-neutralizing nor FOCMA antibody was detectable in the dams or in 19 kittens born to these cats. When these kittens were challenged with FeLV at 2 weeks of age, 18 of 19 developed persistent viremia and FeLV-related disease.
The expectation that cell-mediated immunity is important in the control of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection led us to test a DNA vaccine administered alone or with cytokines that favored the development of a Th1 immune response. The vaccine consisted of two plasmids, one expressing the gag/pol genes and the other expressing the env gene of FeLV-A/Glasgow-1. The genetic adjuvants were plasmids encoding the feline cytokines interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-18, or gamma interferon (IFN-γ). Kittens were immunized by three intramuscular inoculations of the FeLV DNA vaccine alone or in combination with plasmids expressing IFN-γ, IL-12, or both IL-12 and IL-18. Control kittens were inoculated with empty plasmid. Following immunization, anti-FeLV antibodies were not detected in any kitten. Three weeks after the final immunization, the kittens were challenged by the intraperitoneal inoculation of FeLV-A/Glasgow-1 and were then monitored for a further 15 weeks for the presence of virus in plasma and, at the end of the trial, for latent virus in bone marrow. The vaccine consisting of FeLV DNA with the IL-12 and IL-18 genes conferred significant immunity, protecting completely against transient and persistent viremia, and in five of six kittens protecting against latent infection. None of the other vaccines provided significant protection.
A fraction of cats exposed to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) effectively contain virus and resist persistent antigenemia/viremia. Using real-time PCR (qPCR) to quantitate circulating viral DNA levels, previously we detected persistent FeLV DNA in blood cells of non-antigenemic cats considered to have resisted FeLV challenge. In addition, previously we used RNA qPCR to quantitate circulating viral RNA levels and determined that the vast majority of viral DNA is transcriptionally active, even in the absence of antigenemia. A single comparison of all USDA-licensed commercially available FeLV vaccines using these modern sensitive methods has not been reported. To determine whether FeLV vaccination would prevent nucleic acid persistence, we assayed circulating viral DNA, RNA, antigen, infectious virus, and virus neutralizing (VN) antibody in vaccinated and unvaccinated cats challenged with infectious FeLV. We identified challenged vaccinates with undetectable antigenemia and viremia concomitant with persistent FeLV DNA and/or RNA. Moreover, these studies demonstrated that two whole inactivated virus (WIV) adjuvanted FeLV vaccines (Fort Dodge Animal Health’s Fel-O-Vax Lv-K® and Schering-Plough Animal Health’s FEVAXYN FeLV®) provided effective protection against FeLV challenge. In nearly every recipient of these vaccines, neither viral DNA, RNA, antigen, nor infectious virus could be detected in blood after FeLV challenge. Interestingly, this effective viral containment occurred despite a weak to undetectable VN antibody response. The above findings reinforce the precept of FeLV infection as a unique model of effective retroviral immunity elicited by WIV vaccination, and as such holds valuable insights into retroviral immunoprevention and therapy.
FeLV; vaccine; whole inactivated virus; immunity; diagnosis; pathogenesis
Two ALVAC (canarypox virus)-based recombinant viruses expressing the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) subgroup A env and gag genes were assessed for their protective efficacy in cats. Both recombinant viruses contained the entire gag gene. ALVAC-FL also expressed the entire envelope glycoprotein, while ALVAC-FL(dl IS) expressed an env-specific gene product deleted of the putative immunosuppressive region. Although only 50% of the cats vaccinated with ALVAC-FL(dl IS) were protected against persistent viremia after oronasal exposure to a homologous FeLV isolate, all cats administered ALVAC-FL resisted the challenge exposure. Significantly, protection was afforded in the absence of detectable FeLV-neutralizing antibodies. These results represent the first effective vaccination of cats against FeLV with a poxvirus-based recombinant vector and have implications that are relevant not only to FeLV vaccine development but also to developing vaccines against other retroviruses, including human immunodeficiency virus.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a common naturally occurring gammaretrovirus of domestic cats that is associated with degenerative diseases of the hematopoietic system, immunodeficiency, and neoplasia. Although the majority of cats exposed to FeLV develop a transient infection and recover, a proportion of cats become persistently viremic and many subsequently develop fatal diseases. To define the dominant host immune effector mechanisms responsible for the outcome of infection, we studied the longitudinal changes in FeLV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in a group of na|$$|Ad|five cats following oronasal exposure to FeLV. Using 51Cr release assays to measure ex vivo virus-specific cytotoxicity, the emerging virus-specific CTL response was correlated with modulations in viral burden as assessed by detection of infectious virus, FeLV p27 capsid antigen, and proviral DNA in the blood. High levels of circulating FeLV-specific effector CTLs appeared before virus neutralizing antibodies in cats that recovered from exposure to FeLV. In contrast, persistent viremia was associated with a silencing of virus-specific humoral and cell-mediated host immune effector mechanisms. A single transfer of between 2 × 107 and 1 × 108 autologous, antigen-activated lymphoblasts was associated with a downmodulation in viral burden in vivo. The results suggest an important role for FeLV-specific CTLs in retroviral immunity and demonstrate the potential to modulate disease outcome by the adoptive transfer of antigen-specific T cells in vivo.
In a cat that had ostensibly recovered from feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection, we observed the reappearance of the virus and the development of fatal lymphoma 8.5 years after the initial experimental exposure to FeLV-A/Glasgow-1. The goals of the present study were to investigate this FeLV reoccurrence and molecularly characterize the progeny viruses.
The FeLV reoccurrence was detected by the presence of FeLV antigen and RNA in the blood and saliva. The cat was feline immunodeficiency virus positive and showed CD4+ T-cell depletion, severe leukopenia, anemia and a multicentric monoclonal B-cell lymphoma. FeLV-A, but not -B or -C, was detectable. Sequencing of the envelope gene revealed three FeLV variants that were highly divergent from the virus that was originally inoculated (89-91% identity to FeLV-A/Glasgow-1). In the long terminal repeat 31 point mutations, some previously described in cats with lymphomas, were detected. The FeLV variant tissue provirus and viral RNA loads were significantly higher than the FeLV-A/Glasgow-1 loads. Moreover, the variant loads were significantly higher in lymphoma positive compared to lymphoma negative tissues. An increase in the variant provirus blood load was observed at the time of FeLV reoccurrence.
Our results demonstrate that ostensibly recovered FeLV provirus-positive cats may act as a source of infection following FeLV reactivation. The virus variants that had largely replaced the inoculation strain had unusually heavily mutated envelopes. The mutations may have led to increased viral fitness and/or changed the mutagenic characteristics of the virus.
The development of anaemia in feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)-infected cats is associated with the emergence of a novel viral subgroup, FeLV-C. FeLV-C arises from the subgroup that is transmitted, FeLV-A, through alterations in the amino acid sequence of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the envelope glycoprotein that result in a shift in the receptor usage and the cell tropism of the virus. The factors that influence the transition from subgroup A to subgroup C remain unclear, one possibility is that a selective pressure in the host drives the acquisition of mutations in the RBD, creating A/C intermediates with enhanced abilities to interact with the FeLV-C receptor, FLVCR. In order to understand further the emergence of FeLV-C in the infected cat, we examined primary isolates of FeLV-C for evidence of FeLV-A variants that bore mutations consistent with a gradual evolution from FeLV-A to FeLV-C.
Within each isolate of FeLV-C, we identified variants that were ostensibly subgroup A by nucleic acid sequence comparisons, but which bore mutations in the RBD. One such mutation, N91D, was present in multiple isolates and when engineered into a molecular clone of the prototypic FeLV-A (Glasgow-1), enhanced replication was noted in feline cells. Expression of the N91D Env on murine leukaemia virus (MLV) pseudotypes enhanced viral entry mediated by the FeLV-A receptor THTR1 while soluble FeLV-A Env bearing the N91D mutation bound more efficiently to mouse or guinea pig cells bearing the FeLV-A and -C receptors. Long-term in vitro culture of variants bearing the N91D substitution in the presence of anti-FeLV gp70 antibodies did not result in the emergence of FeLV-C variants, suggesting that additional selective pressures in the infected cat may drive the subsequent evolution from subgroup A to subgroup C.
Our data support a model in which variants of FeLV-A, bearing subtle differences in the RBD of Env, may be predisposed towards enhanced replication in vivo and subsequent conversion to FeLV-C. The selection pressures in vivo that drive the emergence of FeLV-C in a proportion of infected cats remain to be established.
Feline leukaemia virus; FeLV; Anaemia; Receptor
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality in domestic cats and some wild cats despite the availability of relatively effective vaccines against the virus. FeLV subgroup A (FeLV-A) is transmitted in natural infections, and FeLV subgroups B, C, and T can evolve directly from FeLV-A by mutation and/or recombination with endogenous retroviruses in domestic cats, resulting in a variety of pathogenic outcomes. The cell surface entry receptor for FeLV-A is a putative thiamine transporter (THTR1). Here, we have addressed whether FeLV-A infection might disrupt thiamine uptake into cells and, because thiamine is an essential nutrient, whether this disruption might have pathological consequences. First, we cloned the cat ortholog of the other of the two known thiamine transporters in mammals, THTR2, and we show that feline THTR1 (feTHTR1) and feTHTR2 both mediate thiamine uptake, but feTHTR2 does not function as a receptor for FeLV-A. We found that feTHTR1 is widely expressed in cat tissues and in cell lines, while expression of feTHTR2 is restricted. Thiamine uptake mediated by feTHTR1 was indeed blocked by FeLV-A infection, and in feline fibroblasts that naturally express feTHTR1 and not feTHTR2, this blockade resulted in a growth arrest at physiological concentrations of extracellular thiamine. The growth arrest was reversed at high extracellular concentrations of thiamine. Our results show that FeLV-A infection can indeed disrupt thiamine uptake with pathological consequences. A prediction of these experiments is that raising the plasma levels of thiamine in FeLV-infected cats may ameliorate the pathogenic effects of infection.
The humoral immune response of cats that were naturally infected with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) was examined after antigenic stimulation with the synthetic antigen poly(L-Tyr, L-Glu)-poly(DL-Ala)-poly(L-Lys). The primary humoral antibody response in FeLV-infected cats was both delayed and greatly reduced, compared with that seen in uninfected control cats. A similar discordance was observed after secondary stimulation with the antigen, in the FeLV-infected cats had both a delayed response and a reduced response, compared with uninfected cats. The levels of total immunoglobulins of the immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M classes in the sera of FeLV-infected cats were significantly higher (two- and threefold, respectively) than were those of the uninfected control animals. The presence of an impaired humoral immune response to newly presented antigens in the presence of elevated immunoglobulin levels has been thoroughly documented in the case of people with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This further emphasizes the potential value of FeLV-infected cats as a model for human acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are retroviruses with global impact on the health of domestic cats. The two viruses differ in their potential to cause disease. FeLV is more pathogenic, and was long considered to be responsible for more clinical syndromes than any other agent in cats. FeLV can cause tumors (mainly lymphoma), bone marrow suppression syndromes (mainly anemia), and lead to secondary infectious diseases caused by suppressive effects of the virus on bone marrow and the immune system. Today, FeLV is less commonly diagnosed than in the previous 20 years; prevalence has been decreasing in most countries. However, FeLV importance may be underestimated as it has been shown that regressively infected cats (that are negative in routinely used FeLV tests) also can develop clinical signs. FIV can cause an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome that increases the risk of opportunistic infections, neurological diseases, and tumors. In most naturally infected cats, however, FIV itself does not cause severe clinical signs, and FIV-infected cats may live many years without any health problems. This article provides a review of clinical syndromes in progressively and regressively FeLV-infected cats as well as in FIV-infected cats.
feline leukemia virus; FeLV; feline immunodeficiency virus; FIV; clinical signs; immunosuppression; immune-mediated diseases; tumors; neurologic signs; bone marrow suppression
We have molecularly cloned a feline leukemia virus (FeLV) (clone 33) from a domestic cat with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The long terminal repeat (LTR) of this virus, like the LTRs present in FeLV proviruses from other cats with AML, contains an unusual structure in its U3 region upstream of the enhancer (URE) consisting of three tandem direct repeats of 47 bp. To test the disease potential and specificity of this unique FeLV LTR, we replaced the U3 region of the LTR of the erythroleukemia-inducing Friend murine leukemia virus (F-MuLV) with that of FeLV clone 33. When the resulting virus, F33V, was injected into newborn mice, almost all of the mice eventually developed hematopoietic malignancies, with a significant percentage being in the myeloid lineage. This is in contrast to mice injected with an F-MuLV recombinant containing the U3 region of another FeLV that lacks repetitive URE sequences, none of which developed myeloid malignancies. Examination of tumor proviruses from F33V-infected mice failed to detect any changes in FeLV U3 sequences other than that in the URE. Like F-MuLV-infected mice, those infected with the F-MuLV/FeLV recombinants were able to generate and replicate mink cell focus-inducing viruses. Our studies are consistent with the idea that the presence of repetitive sequences upstream of the enhancer in the LTR of FeLV may favor the activation of this promoter in myeloid cells and contribute to the development of malignancies in this hematopoietic lineage.
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are major causes of morbidity and mortality in domestic and wild felids. Despite the clinical importance of feline retroviruses and the growing interest in cats as pets, information about FeLV and FIV in Malaysia is presently insufficient to properly advise veterinarians and pet owners. A cross-sectional study was carried out from January 2010 to December 2010 to determine the prevalence and risk factors associated with FeLV and FIV among domestic cats in peninsular Malaysia. Plasma samples were harvested from the blood of 368 domestic cats and screened for evidence of FeLV p27 antigen and FIV antibodies, using an immunochromatographic kit. Additionally, data on cat demographics and health were collected using a structured questionnaire, and were evaluated as potential risk factors for FeLV or FIV status.
Of the 368 cats that were evaluated in this study, 12.2% (45/368; 95% CI = 8.88 - 15.58) were positive for FeLV p27 antigen, 31.3%, (115/368; 95% CI = 26.51 - 35.99) were seropositive to FIV antibodies, and 4.3% (16/368; 95% CI = 2.27 - 6.43) had evidence of both viruses. Factors found to significantly increase the risk for FeLV seropositivity include sex, age, behaviour, sickness, and living in a multi-cat household. Seropositive response to FIV was significantly associated with sex, neuter status, age, behaviour, and health status.
The present study indicates that FeLV and FIV are common among domestic cats in peninsular Malaysia, and that factors related to cat demographics and health such as age, sex, behaviour, health status and type of household are important predictors for seropositive status to FeLV or FIV in peninsular Malaysia. High prevalence of FeLV or FIV observed in our study is of concern, in view of the immunosuppressive potentials of the two pathogens. Specific measures for control and prevention such as screening and routine vaccination are needed to ensure that FeLV and FIV are controlled in the cat population of peninsular Malaysia.
Feline leukaemia virus; Feline immunodeficiency virus; Prevalence; Risk factors; Cats; Peninsular Malaysia
The pathogenic subgroup C feline leukemia virus (FeLV-C) arises in infected cats as a result of mutations in the envelope (Env) of the subgroup A FeLV (FeLV-A). To better understand emergence of FeLV-C and potential FeLV intermediates that may arise, we characterized FeLV Env sequences from the primary FY981 FeLV isolate previously derived from an anemic cat. Here, we report the characterization of the novel FY981 FeLV Env that is highly related to FeLV-A Env but whose variable region A (VRA) receptor recognition sequence partially resembles the VRA sequence from the prototypical FeLV-C/Sarma Env. Pseudotype viruses bearing FY981 Env were capable of infecting feline, human, and guinea pig cells, suggestive of a subgroup C phenotype, but also infected porcine ST-IOWA cells that are normally resistant to FeLV-C and to FeLV-A. Analysis of the host receptor used by FY981 suggests that FY981 can use both the FeLV-C receptor FLVCR1 and the feline FeLV-A receptor THTR1 for infection. However, our results suggest that FY981 infection of ST-IOWA cells is not mediated by the porcine homologue of FLVCR1 and THTR1 but by an alternative receptor, which we have now identified as the FLVCR1-related protein FLVCR2. Together, our results suggest that FY981 FeLV uses FLVCR1, FLVCR2, and THTR1 as receptors. Our findings suggest the possibility that pathogenic FeLV-C arises in FeLV-infected cats through intermediates that are multitropic in their receptor use.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a horizontally transmitted virus that causes a variety of proliferative and immunosuppressive diseases in cats. There are four subgroups of FeLV, A, B, C, and T, each of which has a distinct receptor requirement. The receptors for all but the FeLV-A subgroup have been defined previously. Here, we report the identification of the cellular receptor for FeLV-A, which is the most transmissible form of FeLV. The receptor cDNA was isolated using a gene transfer approach, which involved introducing sequences from a feline cell line permissive to FeLV-A into a murine cell line that was not permissive. The feline cDNA identified by this method was approximately 3.5 kb, and included an open reading frame predicted to encode a protein of 490 amino acids. This feline cDNA conferred susceptibility to FeLV-A when reintroduced into nonpermissive cells, but it did not render these cells permissive to any other FeLV subgroup. Moreover, these cells specifically bound FeLV-A-pseudotyped virus particles, indicating that the cDNA encodes a binding receptor for FeLV-A. The feline cDNA shares ∼93% amino acid sequence identity with the human thiamine transport protein 1 (THTR1). The human THTR1 receptor was also functional as a receptor for FeLV-A, albeit with reduced efficiency compared to the feline orthologue. On the basis of these data, which strongly suggest the feline protein is the orthologue of human THTR1, we have named the feline receptor feTHTR1. Identification of this receptor will allow more detailed studies of the early events in FeLV transmission and may provide insights into FeLV pathogenesis.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an important pathogen of domestic cats. The most common type of malignancy associated with FeLV is T-cell lymphoma. SL3-3 (SL3) is a potent T-cell lymphomagenic murine leukemia virus. Transcriptional enhancer sequences within the long terminal repeats (LTRs) of SL3 and other murine retroviruses are crucial genetic determinants of the pathogenicities of these viruses. The LTR enhancer sequences of FeLV contain identical binding sites for some of the transcription factors that are known to affect the lymphomagenicity of SL3. To test whether the FeLV LTR contains a genetic determinant of lymphomagenicity, a recombinant virus that contained the U3 region of a naturally occurring FeLV isolate, LC-FeLV, linked to the remainder of the genome of SL3 was generated. When inoculated into mice, the recombinant virus induced T-cell lymphomas nearly as quickly as SL3. Moreover, the U3 sequences of LC-FeLV were found to have about half as much transcriptional activity in T lymphocytes as the corresponding sequences of SL3. This level of activity was severalfold higher than that of the LTR of weakly leukemogenic Akv virus. Thus, the FeLV LTR contains a potent genetic determinant of T-cell lymphomagenicity. Presumably, it is adapted to be recognized by transcription factors present in T cells of cats, and this yields a relatively high level of transcription that allows the enhancer to drive the requisite steps in the process of lymphomagenesis.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is thought to induce neoplastic diseases in infected cats by a variety of mechanisms, including the transduction of host proto-oncogenes. While FeLV recombinants that encode cellular sequences have been isolated from tumors of naturally infected animals, the acquisition of an unrelated host gene has never been documented in an experimental FeLV infection. We isolated recombinant FeLV proviruses encoding feline Notch2 sequences from thymic lymphoma DNA of two cats inoculated with the molecularly cloned virus FeLV-61E. Four recombinant genomes were identified, three in one cat and one in the other. Each had similar but distinct transduction junctions, and in all cases, the insertions replaced most of the envelope gene with a region of Notch2 that included the intracellular ankyrin repeat functional domain. The product of the FeLV/Notch2 recombinant provirus was a novel, truncated 65- to 70-kD Notch2 protein that was targeted to the cell nucleus. This virally encoded Notch2 protein, which resembles previously constructed, constitutively activated forms of Notch, was apparently expressed from a subgenomic transcript spliced at the normal envelope donor and acceptor sequences. The data reported here implicate a nuclear, activated Notch2 protein in FeLV-induced leukemogenesis.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a natural retrovirus of domestic cats associated with degenerative, proliferative and malignant diseases. Studies of FeLV infection in a cohort of naturally infected cats were undertaken to examine FeLV variation, the selective pressures operative in FeLV infection that lead to predominance of natural variants, and the consequences for infection and disease progression. A unique variant, designated FeLV-945, was identified as the predominant isolate in the cohort and was associated with non-T-cell diseases including multicentric lymphoma. FeLV-945 was assigned to the FeLV-A subgroup based on sequence analysis and receptor utilization, but was shown to differ in sequence from a prototype member of FeLV-A, designated FeLV-A/61E, in the long terminal repeat (LTR) and the surface glycoprotein gene (SU). A unique sequence motif in the FeLV-945 LTR was shown to function as a transcriptional enhancer and to confer a replicative advantage. The FeLV-945 SU protein was observed to differ in sequence as compared to FeLV-A/61E within functional domains known to determine receptor selection and binding. Experimental infection of newborn cats was performed using wild type FeLV-A/61E or recombinant FeLV-A/61E in which the LTR (61E/945L) or LTR and SU (61E/945SL) were exchanged for that of FeLV-945. Infection with either FeLV-A/61E or 61E/945L resulted in T-cell lymphoma of the thymus, although 61E/945L caused disease significantly more rapidly. In contrast, infection with 61E/945SL resulted in the rapid induction of a multicentric lymphoma of B-cell origin, thus recapitulating the outcome of natural infection and implicating FeLV-945 SU as a determinant of disease outcome. Recombinant FeLV-B was detected infrequently and at low levels in multicentric lymphomas, and was thereby not implicated in disease induction. Preliminary studies of receptor interaction indicated that virus particles bearing FeLV-945 SU bind to the FeLV-A receptor more efficiently than do particles bearing FeLV-A/61E SU, and that soluble SU proteins expressed from the viruses demonstrate the same differential binding phenotype. Preliminary mutational analysis of FeLV-945 was performed by exchanging regions containing either the primary receptor binding determinant, VRA, the secondary determinant, VRB, or a proline-rich region, PRR, with that of FeLV-A/61E. Results implicated a region containing VRA as a minor contributor, while a region containing VRB largely conferred increased binding efficiency.
feline leukemia virus; lymphoma; surface glycoprotein; receptor binding domain
The purposes of this study were to determine the seroprevalence of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection among cats in Canada and to identify risk factors for seropositivity. Signalment, lifestyle factors, and test results for FeLV antigen and FIV antibody were analyzed for 11 144 cats from the 10 Canadian provinces. Seroprevalence for FIV antibody was 4.3% and seroprevalence for FeLV antigen was 3.4%. Fifty-eight cats (0.5%) were seropositive for both viruses. Seroprevalence varied geographically. Factors such as age, gender, health status, and lifestyle were significantly associated with risk of FeLV and FIV seropositivity. The results suggest that cats in Canada are at risk of retrovirus infection and support current recommendations that the retrovirus status of all cats should be known.
Different subgroups of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) use different host cell receptors for entry. Subgroup A FeLV (FeLV-A) is the virus that is transmitted from cat to cat, suggesting that cells expressing the FeLV-A receptor are important targets at the earliest stages of infection. FeLV-B evolves from FeLV-A in the infected cat through acquisition of cellular sequences that are related to the FeLV envelope gene. FeLV-Bs have been shown to infect cells using the Pit1 receptor, and some variants can infect cells at a lower efficiency using Pit2. Because these observations were made using receptor proteins of human or rodent origin, the role that Pit1 and Pit2 may play in FeLV-B replication in the cat is unclear. In this study, the feline Pit receptors were cloned and tested for their ability to act as receptors for different FeLV-Bs. Some FeLV-Bs infected cells expressing feline Pit2 and feline Pit1 with equal high efficiency. Variable region A (VRA) in the putative receptor-binding domain (RBD) was a critical determinant for both feline Pit1 and feline Pit2 binding, although other domains in the RBD appear to influence how efficiently the FeLV-B surface unit can bind to feline Pit2 and promote entry via this receptor. An arginine residue at position 73 in VRA was found to be important for envelope binding to feline Pit2 but not feline Pit1. Interestingly, this arginine is not found in endogenous FeLV sequences or in recombinant viruses recovered from feline cells infected with FeLV-A. Thus, while FeLV-Bs that are able to use feline Pit2 can evolve by recombination with endogenous sequences, a subsequent point mutation during reverse transcription may be needed to generate a virus that can efficiently enter the cells using the feline Pit2 as its receptor. These studies suggest that cells expressing the feline Pit2 protein are likely to be targets for FeLV-B infection in the cat.
In felids, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection results in a variety of outcomes that range from abortive (virus readily eliminated and never detectable) to progressive infection (persistent viremia and viral shedding). Recently, a novel outcome was postulated for low FeLV infectious doses. Naïve cats exposed to faeces of persistently infected cats seroconverted, indicating infection, but remained negative for provirus and p27 antigen in blood. FeLV provirus was found in some tissues but not in the bone marrow, infection of which is usually considered a necessary stage for disease progression. To investigate the impact of low FeLV doses on young cats and to test the hypothesis that low dose exposure may lead to an unknown pathogenesis of infection without involvement of the bone marrow, 21 cats were infected oronasally with variable viral doses. Blood p27, proviral and viral loads were followed until week 20 post-infection. Tissue proviral loads were determined as well. The immune response was monitored by measuring FeLV whole virus and p45 antibodies; and feline oncornavirus-associated cell membrane antigen (FOCMA) assay. One cat showed regressive infection (transient antigenemia, persistent provirus-positivity, and seroconversion) with provirus only found in some organs at sacrifice. In 7 of the 20 remaining cats FOCMA assay positivity was the only sign of infection, while all other tests were negative. Overall, the results show that FeLV low dose exposure can result in seroconversion during a presumed abortive infection. Therefore, commonly used detection methods do not detect all FeLV-infected animals, possibly leading to an underestimation of the prevalence of infection.
FeLV; pathogenesis; infection outcome; abortive infection; FOCMA assay
We describe the molecular cloning of an anemogenic feline leukemia virus (FeLV), FeLV-C-Sarma, from the productively infected human rhabdomyosarcoma cell line RD(FeLV-C-S). Molecularly cloned FeLV-C-S proviral DNA yielded infectious virus (mcFeLV-C-S) after transfection of mammalian cells, and virus interference studies using transfection-derived virus demonstrated that our clone encodes FeLV belonging to the C subgroup. mcFeLV-C-S did not induce viremia in eight 8-week-old outbred specific-pathogen-free (SPF) cats. It did, however, induce viremia and a rapid, fatal aplastic anemia due to profound suppression of erythroid stem cell growth in 9 of 10 inoculated newborn, SPF cats within 3 to 8 weeks (21 to 58 days) postinoculation. Thus, the genome of mcFeLV-C-S encodes the determinants responsible for the genetically dominant induction of irreversible erythroid aplasia in outbred cats. A potential clue to the pathogenic determinants of this virus comes from previous work indicating that all FeLV isolates belonging to the C subgroup, an envelop-gene-determined property, and only those belonging to the C subgroup, are potent, consistent inducers of aplastic anemia in cats. To approach the molecular mechanism underlying the induction of this disease, we first determined the nucleotide sequence of the envelope genes and 3' long terminal repeat of FeLV-C-S and compared it with that of FeLV-B-Gardner-Arnstein (mcFeLV-B-GA), a subgroup-B feline leukemia virus that consistently induces a different disease, myelodysplastic anemia, in neonatal SPF cats. Our analysis revealed that the p15E genes and long terminal repeats of the two FeLV strains are highly homologous, whereas there are major differences in the gp70 proteins, including five regions of significant amino acid differences and apparent sequence substitution. Some of these changes are also reflected in predicted glycosylation sites; the gp70 protein of FeLV-B-GA has 11 potential glycosylation sites, only 8 of which are present in FeLV-C-S.
It is generally accepted that all primary isolates of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) contain a subgroup A virus (FeLV-A) that is essential for transmission. In contrast, FeLV-B is thought to arise de novo in the infected animal through RNA recombination events with endogenous FeLV transcripts, presumably through copackaging of RNA from endogenous FeLV and exogenous FeLV-A. Here, we report the complete genome sequences of two novel strains of FeLV-B (FeLV-2518 and FeLV-4314) that were isolated in the absence of FeLV-A. The env genes of these isolates have been characterized previously, and the 3′ recombination sites have been identified. We describe herein the 5′ recombination breakpoints of each virus. These breakpoints were found to be within the signal peptide of the env gene and the reverse transcriptase-coding region, respectively. This is the first report of a recombination site within the pol gene of an FeLV-B genome and the first genetic characterization of multiple independently arising FeLV-B isolates that have been identified without a functional FeLV-A ancestral virus.
Healthy feline leukemia virus (FeLV)-infected cats from leukemia cluster environments were followed for up to 23 months for development of disease and evidence of alteration in the hemogram. The incidence of disease development in FeLV-postive cats was more than fivefold higher than the incidence for FeLV-negative cats. Ten cases of leukemia developed in 69 infected cats, whereas one case of leukemia occurred in 59 uninfected cats. The incidence for development of diseases other than leukemia was 30.4 percent for FeLV-infected cats as opposed to 6.8 per cent for uninfected cats. This could be a result of the immunosuppressive effects of FeLV. Felv-infected cats had no evidence of subclinical anemia. Mean packed cell volumes and total leukocyte counts were about the same for infected and uninfected animals. The only variation seen in healthy FeLV-infected cats was a decreased mean lymphocyte count. The difference between mean lymphocyte count for FeLV-infected and uninfected animals was significant at the 0.999 level. These findings suggest that the incubation period for feline leukemia may be very prolonged under natural conditions and that an increased susceptibility to unrelated infectious diseases exists during this period. This increased susceptibility was apparently not associated with anemia or depressed total leukocyte counts.
The genomes of several strains of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) were compared by two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of the large RNase T1-resistant oligonucleotides of the 70S RNA. Differences between each strain of FeLV tested were detected by this method. We estimate that the degree of sequence identity between the viruses is: FeLV A (Glasgow-1) to FeLV B (Snyder-Theilen), 52%; FeLV A (Glasgow-1) to FeLV C(Sarma), 66%; FeLV B(Snyder-Theilen) to FeLV C (Sarma), 37%. The fingerprints of two independent isolates of FeLV strains of subgroup A (Glasgow-1 and Rickard) were detectably different. We conclude that the RNase T1 oligonucleotide fingerprint pattern provides a useful tool for identification of FeLV strains.
The benefits of postexposure 3'-azido-3'-dideoxythymidine (AZT) prophylaxis following human immunodeficiency virus exposure are unknown. We describe a comprehensive assessment of pre- and postexposure AZT therapy in the feline leukemia virus (FeLV)-cat model for AIDS which included in vitro testing, an in vivo dose-response titration, a postexposure treatment study, plasma drug concentration determinations, and evaluation of the immune response to FeLV. In in vitro studies, AZT prevented FeLV infection of a feline T-lymphoid cell line, giving 50 and 90% inhibition concentrations of 4.6 and 11.1 mM, respectively. In all of the in vivo efficacy studies, AZT was administered by continuous subcutaneous infusion for 28 days. AZT toxicity was excessive at a dosage of 120 mg/kg of body weight per day, causing acute anemia, but AZT was tolerable at 60 mg/kg/day. In preexposure studies, AZT was efficacious in preventing chronic antigenemia at a dosage of > or = 15 mg/kg/day, at which plasma AZT concentrations averaged between 0.51 and 0.81 micrograms/ml (2.13 and 3.03 microM). As a postexposure treatment, at 60 mg/kg/day, AZT prevented chronic FeLV antigenemia when treatment was started up to 96 h post-virus inoculation (p.i.), but not when treatment was started at 192 h p.i. The 4-day period between 96 and 192 h p.i. appears to be critical for establishing chronic viremia. It is presumed that the increase in virus load between 4 and 8 days p.i. was able to overwhelm the immunologic functions responsible for containment of FeLV infection, even though AZT therapy effectively controlled viremia during the treatment period. The antibody response to FeLV varied depending on the time of AZT treatment initiation relative to virus challenge.When AZT treatment was started 48 h before or 8 h after FeLV challenge, antibodies to FeLV were not detected until after AZT treatment was discontinued at 28 days p.i. Following AZT treatment, however, antibody titers rapidly increased at a rate suggestive of a secondary immune response. When AZT treatment was initiate at later time points relative to virus challenge (24, 48, and 96 h p.i.), antibodies to FeLV became detectable during the treatment period. These results indicate that AZT treatment does not completely prevent FeLV infection, even when treatment begins before virus challenge, and that immune sensitization to FeLV proceeds during the prophylactic drug treatment period.