The results obtained by a fluorescent antibody study of the Shope papilloma virus in papillomas of the wild and domestic rabbit are presented.
In the wild rabbit papillomas the viral antigens occurred exclusively in the nucleus and were present in the differentiating cells of the keratohyaline layers and in the keratinized layers. The antigens were not present in the deeper proliferating epithelial cells of the papillomas.
The Shope viral antigens were present in very minute amounts in papillomas of the domestic rabbit, as compared with papillomas of the wild rabbit, and were only detected in the superficial keratinized layers.
It is postulated that virus is present in the nuclei of the proliferating cells of the papillomas of the wild and domestic rabbit but exists there in an early stage of development, consisting mainly of nucleic acid and deficient in protein, therefore non-antigenic and not demonstrable by fluorescent antibody. The nucleic acid moiety of the virus may be infective, and the protein component may provide immunologic specificity and serve to preserve transmissibility. The protein-deficient virus can be referred to as masked virus.