Coinfection of neonatal BALB/c mice with helper-dependent Friend spleen focus-forming virus (SFFV), as contained in the Friend virus (FV) complex, and antigenically distinct Moloney leukemia virus (MolLV) resulted in the recovery of a MolLV pseudotype of SFFV, abbreviated SFFV(MolLV). The antigenic alteration of SFFV was observed by following its neutralization kinetics in vitro by specific Friend or Moloney typing antiserum.

Effective pseudotype production was accomplished only when N-tropic LLV-F (the natural helper virus in the FV complex) was inhibited in B-type mice coinfected with an NB-tropic MolLV or other murine leukemia virus (MuLV) preparation. SFFV pseudotypes could not be prepared by using murine viruses other than leukemia viruses. SFFV prepared after two serial passages in the presence of MolLV was effectively neutralized by Moloney antiserum, but not by Friend typing antiserum; therefore, the envelope of the pseudotype virus, SFFV(MolLV), is homogeneous. Pseudotype virus was antigenically stable in the absence of continued mixed infection of BALB/c mice with SFFV(MolLV) and MolLV. However, SFFV(MolLV) was easily converted back to the LLV-F type after only one passage in BALB/c mice coinfected with NB-tropic LLV-F. The antigenic interconversion between LLV-F and MolLV types demonstrated that SFFV is defective with respect to the expression of neutralizable envelope antigens.

Analysis of the neutralizable envelope antigens of nine SFFV(MuLV) pseudotypes by a panel of seven typing antisera made possible a "type-specific" SFFV(MuLV) envelope classification. Two major categories have been identified which correspond to the Gross (G) and Friend-Moloney-Rauscher (FMR) subgroups. Further, the FMR subgroup was divided into four types on the basis of distinct neutralization patterns. These results indicated that the specificity observed by cytotoxic G vs. FMR antisera is different from that observed by neutralization kinetics. We therefore suggest that the specific antigens revealed by virus neutralization tests be referred to as type specific.

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