Exposure of normal juvenile chicken bone marrow cells to the replication defective avian reticuloendotheliosis virus strain T (REV-T) (chicken syncytial virus [CSV]) in vitro resulted in the generation of transformed cell lines containing T cells. The transformed T cells derived from bone marrow included cells expressing either alpha/beta or gamma/delta T cell receptors (TCRs) in proportions roughly equivalent to the proportions of TCR-alpha/beta and TCR-gamma/delta T cells found in the normal bone marrow in vivo. Essentially all TCR-alpha/beta-expressing transformed bone marrow-derived T cells expressed CD8, whereas few, if any, expressed CD4. In contrast, among TCR-gamma/delta T cells, both CD8+ and CD8- cells were derived, all of which were CD4-. Exposure of ex vivo spleen cells to REV-T(CSV) yielded transformed polyclonal cell lines containing > 99% B cells. However, REV-T(CSV) infection of mitogen-activated spleen cells in vitro resulted in transformed populations containing predominantly T cells. This may be explained at least in part by in vitro activation resulting in dramatically increased levels of T cell REV-T(CSV) receptor expression. In contrast to REV-T(CSV)-transformed lines derived from normal bone marrow, transformed lines derived from activated spleen cells contained substantial numbers of CD4+ cells, all of which expressed TCR-alpha/beta. While transformed T cells derived from bone marrow were stable for extended periods of in vitro culture and were cloned from single cells, transformed T cells from activated spleen were not stable and could not be cloned. We have therefore dissociated the initial transformation of T cells with REV-T(CSV) from the requirements for long-term growth. These results provide the first demonstration of efficient in vitro transformation of chicken T lineage cells by REV-T(CSV). Since productive infection with REV-T(CSV) is not sufficient to promote long-term growth of transformed cells, these results further suggest that immortalization depends not only upon expression of the v-rel oncogene but also on intracellular factor(s) whose expression varies according to the state of T cell physiology and/or activation.

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