Fusion Activity Dissociated from Replication Ability in Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in Human Cells

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Multinucleated-giant-cell formation followed by cell killing was observed after cocultivation of the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-producing feline T-cell line 3201/FIV with various human cells, including T-cell lines carrying human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I). The susceptibility to giant cell formation varied with the cell lines tested. Cocultivation of irradiated 3201/FIV cells with MT-2 cells resulted in giant cell formation as early as 2 h in culture, with striking resemblance to that induced by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). MT-4 cells (HTLV-I positive) and H9 cells (HTLV-I negative) were less susceptible than MT-2 to the induction of syncytia. MOLT-4 cells (HTLV-I negative) had intermediate sensitivity to syncytia formation. No syncytia were observed in the monocytic cell line U-937 (HTLV-I negative). Syncytia formation between 3201/FIV and MT-2 cells was inhibited by polyclonal cat anti-FIV antisera but not polyclonal cat anti-feline leukemia virus (FeLV) antisera, goat anti-FeLV, uninfected specific-pathogen-free cat serum, human anti-HTLV-I antisera, or normal human and goat serum. Concentrated cell-free FIV supernatant from 3201/FIV also induced giant cells of MT-2 cells that were indistinguishable from those induced by cocultivation. Giant cells and extensive cell killing associated with giant cell formation declined and disappeared within 10 days. Surviving cells appeared to be of normal size and grew continuously without expressing FIV antigen or releasing infective virus. Although Southern blot analysis using probes specific for FIV could not detect proviral DNA in any of the five human cell lines cocultured with irradiated 3201/FIV cells, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique detected FIV-specific DNA in MOLT-4 cells. DNA from the FIV-PCR positive MOLT-4 cells was PCR negative for endogenous FeLV-specific sequences, indicating that the MOLT-4 cell DNA was not contaminated with DNA from feline cells (i.e., 3201 cells). The FIV-MOLT-4 cells remained PCR positive for FIV after 40 passages, suggesting stable integration in the human cell line. These findings indicate that FIV is capable of forming proviral DNA in human T-lymphoid cells by cocultivation, although this FIV-carrying human cell line failed to produce replication-competent viruses.

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