Mouse mammary tumor virus is known to infect newborn mice via mother's milk. A proposed key step for viral spread to the mammary gland is by the infection of lymphocytes. We show here that although in suckling mice retroviral proteins are found in all epithelial cells of the gut, viral DNA is exclusively detectable in the Peyer's patches. As early as 5 d after birth the infection leads to a superantigen response in the Peyer's patches but not in other lymphoid organs draining the intestine. Viral DNA can be detected before the superantigen response and becomes first evident in the Peyer's patches followed by mesenteric lymph nodes and finally all lymphoid organs.

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