Structural basis of genomic RNA (gRNA) dimerization and packaging determinants of mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV)
Retroviruses are believed to induce tumors by acting as insertional mutagens that activate expression of cellular protooncogenes. Indeed, almost 90% of mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV)-induced mammary tumors in C3H/He mice show upregulation of Int protooncogenes. We have analyzed three different MMTV variants [MMTV(C3H), MMTV(HeJ), and a genetically engineered MMTV hybrid provirus (HP)] for tumorigenicity in mice from two distinct genetic backgrounds. All three viruses were tumor causing in BALB/cJ mice. However, only MMTV(C3H), but not MMTV(HeJ) or HP, induced mammary tumors in C3H/He mice. All of the viruses were infectious on either background and up-regulated expression of Int genes in tumors they induced. Like HP, MMTV(HeJ) was found to be a genetic recombinant between endogenous Mtv1 provirus and exogenous MMTV(C3H). Sequence comparison of MMTV variants linked the tumorigenicity of MMTV(C3H) to the gag region of the retrovirus.