Acute thrombocytopenia and megakaryocyte infection have been investigated during the preleukemic phase of the disease induced by the Rauscher murine leukemia virus (RMuLV) in mice. Injection of RMuLV, either intravenously or intraperitoneally, rapidly induced thrombocytopenia, possibly as a result of direct interaction between platelets and viral particles. The susceptibility to this acute thrombocytopenia was genetically controlled and was inherited as a dominant trait. Murine strains with H-2d or H-2k haplotype, which are susceptible to the induction of leukemia by RMuLV, developed thrombocytopenia, whereas leukemia-resistant H-2b and H-2q strains of mice failed to develop thrombocytopenia. Using B10 H-2-congenic and intra-H-2-recombinant mice, it was shown that the susceptibility to RMuLV-induced thrombocytopenia was controlled by gene(s) in or closely linked to the D region of the H-2 complex. Megakaryocytes may be one of the first sites for the replication of RMuLV. Indeed, among bone marrow cells, only megakaryocytes expressed viral antigens gp70 and p30 during the initial phase of RMuLV infection. In addition, megakaryocytes from infected mice were able to transfer preleukemic thrombocytopenia as well as leukemia in syngeneic mice. The infection of megakaryocytes by RMuLV appears to be genetically controlled in a manner similar to the induction of thrombocytopenia, since only the megakaryocytes from mice developing thrombocytopenia were infected by RMuLV. These results indicate that the gene(s) governing the induction of thrombocytopenia by RMuLV may be the same gene(s) (or closely linked to the gene) that controls the susceptibility to leukemogenesis, and would be consistent with the expression of the gene product, presumably a receptor-like molecule for RMuLV, on platelet and megakaryocyte membranes.

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