Transgenic mice expressing either the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) superantigen gene (sag) alone or in combination with the viral envelope genes (env) (LEL), or all of the viral genes (gag, pol, env, and sag) (HYB PRO), deleted V beta 14+ T cells from their immune repertoire. However, only LEL or HYB PRO transgenic antigen-presenting cells were capable of stimulating a proliferative response from nontransgenic primary T cells or interleukin 2 production from a V beta 15-bearing T cell hybridoma. These T cell responses could be inhibited by a monospecific antibody directed against the MMTV gp52 cell surface glycoprotein. These results indicate that the MMTV gp52 gene product participates in the presentation of superantigen to T cells, resulting in their stimulation, a requisite step in the MMTV infection pathway. Thus, gp52 could play a role in the transfer of virus between different subsets of lymphocytes.

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