Type-C RNA viruses isolated from wild mice are causative of naturally occurring neoplasia and neurologic diseases. Biochemical and immunologic characterization of this virus group revealed that amphotropic viruses isolated from wild mice trapped in separate geographical areas are indistinguishable, whereas amphotropic and ecotropic viruses naturally infecting the same animal are env gene variants. Molecular hybridization studies established that neither host range variant is endogenous to the Mus musculus genome, although each demonstrates partial nucleotide sequence homology. Wild mouse type-C viruses exhibited much closer molecular and antigenic relatedness to the exogenous virus subgroup (Friend-, Moloney-, and Rauscher-MuLV) than to prototype endogenous viruses isolated from laboratory mouse strains. The evidence indicates that exogenous mouse type-C viruses have been maintained in nature over a long period of evolution as a separate virus group, causative of tumors in mice by a mechanism solely involving their transmission as infectious agents.

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