The BALB/c mouse strain has been shown to contain endogenous mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) proviral sequences. However, no exogenous MMTV particles have been detected in their tissues. Female BALB/c mice from our colonies exhibit a very low incidence of spontaneous mammary tumors (SMT); less than 1% at up to 20 mo of age. Immunodeficient BALB/c mice heterozygous for the nude gene (nu/+, +/+), for the dominant hemimelia gene associated with asplenia (+/+, Dh/+), or for both traits (nu/+, Dh/+) have been examined for SMT incidence and the presence of MMTV proviruses. Based on restriction digestion with Eco RI, Bam HI, and Pst I, the immunodeficient mice have an MMTV provirus copy number and organization identical to the BALB/cCrgl strain. This MMTV DNA pattern is distinct from the MMTV proviruses in C3H/He, C57BL/6J and CBA/CaJ mice, which were parental strains of the immunodeficient mutants. Normal female BALB/c or BALB/c heterozygous for the asplenic trait do not develop significant numbers of SMT at up to 19 mo of age. In contrast, an incidence of 23.8% and 57.7% SMT was observed in BALB/c nu/+ heterozygotes, and in BALB/c nu/+, Dh/+ heterozygotes, respectively. These results indicate that agenesis of the spleen, concomitant with the presence of the heterozygous nude gene, contribute to a high incidence of SMT in the low-SMT BALB/c mouse strain.

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