We have shown that a mixture of murine leukemia viruses (MuLV) causes the acute onset of lymphoproliferation and immunosuppression when injected into adult C57BL/6 mice. The ecotropic/MCF (mink cell focus-inducing) mixture of MuLV stimulates polyclonal B lymphocyte proliferation and differentiation to antibody-secreting cells. Serum Ig levels are elevated for all isotypes except IgA. The viral infection leads to a rapid decline in T lymphocyte responses to mitogens and alloantigens, as well as a decrease in helper cell activity. Specific antibody responses to both T-dependent and T-independent antigens are impaired, and the response of B lymphocytes to mitogens is abolished. The profound immunosuppression seems to be due to the MuLV-induced polyclonal activation of lymphocytes. No active suppression of normal lymphocyte responses by cells from virus-infected mice was observed. The disease induced by the LP-BM5 MuLV isolate thus seems a promising model for the study of lymphocyte activation and the mechanisms of retrovirus-induced immunosuppression.

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