Lentivirus infections are characterized by a persistent, restricted type of virus replication in tissues. Using sheep and goat lentiviruses, whose target cells in vivo are macrophages, we explored virus-host cell interactions to determine whether an interferon (IFN) is produced during virus replication in vivo which causes restricted replication. We show that the lentiviruses were incapable of inducing IFN directly in any infected cell, including macrophages and lymphocytes. However, after infection with these viruses, sheep and goat macrophages acquired a factor that triggered IFN production by T lymphocytes. Only sheep/goat lentiviruses were capable of inducing the factor and, although these viruses replicated productively in various cell cultures of the natural host animal, only infected macrophages developed the IFN-inducing factor. The factor was produced continuously and was strictly cell associated, requiring direct contact with lymphocytes. The lymphocytes responded with a single, sudden release of IFN beginning 7 h after cocultivation and reaching peak values at 48 h, after which they ceased production and became refractory. IFN production was not immunologically specific and did not require histocompatibility between donors of the two cell types. The IFN is a nonglycosylated protein of molecular weight 54,000-64,000, and is stable to heat and acid treatments. These findings identify a unique IFN and a new method for virus induction of IFN. The novel two-stage process of induction provides a mechanism for local amplification and continuity of production of IFN in vivo. This is compatible with infection in the animal whose lentivirus-induced pathologic lesions consist of accumulations of lymphocytes and infected macrophages in target tissues.

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