An approach toward elucidation of the mechanisms of action of mammalian leukemia viruses has been made by the generation in tissue culture of recombinant viruses between a potent murine leukemia virus (MuLV), Rauscher-MuLV, and an endogenous xenotropic mouse type-C virus, BALB:virus-2, without known malignant potential. Using a double selection system devised to select against the temperature-sensitive (ts) lesion associated with a mutant of Rauscher-MuLV and the xenotropic host range of BALB:virus-2, recombinant viruses were obtained at frequencies ranging from 0.01 to 0.1%. Recombinant viruses were identified on the basis of the type specific antigenic determinants in the translational products of gag (p15, p12, p30, and p10 proteins), pol (reverse transcriptase), and env (gp70 glycoprotein) genes. By this approach, the partial genetic maps of a large number of recombinants were obtained. The fact that p10 of Rauscher-MuLV ts 25, the mutant utilized, was the only protein uniformly lacking in recombinant viruses, localized the lesion inhibiting gag precursor cleavage in this mutant at the carboxy terminus of its gag gene. The recombinant viruses demonstrated two host range phenotypes as defined by Fv-1 host cell restriction. In each case, NB-tropic recombinants possessed the p30 of BALB:virus-2 p30. Thus, it was possible to assign the site of Fv-1 action at, or closely linked, to the viral p30. The target within the viral genome of a second host restriction was also mapped. A serum factor, previously shown to specifically inactivate xenotropic virus infectivity, was demonstrated to exert its action on the viral env gene product. The system described here allows the generation of specific recombinant genotypes that should be useful in defining those regions of the viral genome involved in leukemogenesis.

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