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A role for endogenous retroviral sequences in the regulation of lymphocyte activation

A role for endogenous retroviral sequences in the regulation of lymphocyte activation

Journal of Immunology 143(8): 2448-2451

The genomes of most vertebrates contain numerous retroviral sequences, the great majority of which are non-infectious. These endogenous retroviral sequences are transcribed and translated in many host tissues, and are induced by mitogens. The function, if any, of endogenous retroviruses has been unclear. The transmembrane envelope proteins of some infectious type C retroviruses suppress lymphocyte activation, but it is unknown whether any endogenous type C retroviruses share this suppressive activity. To study the possible effects of murine endogenous retroviral expression, specific antisense oligonucleotides were synthesized complementary to type C retroviral sequences, and were cultured with murine spleen cells. If any of these endogenous retroviruses are suppressing lymphocyte activation, then inhibiting such endogenous retroviral-mediated suppression with antisense might result in lymphocyte stimulation. Three classes of endogenous type C retroviral sequences may be distinguished by antisense oligonucleotides (based on their homology to infectious retroviruses): ecotropic, xenotropic, and mink cell focus-forming (MCF). Antisense oligonucleotides to endogenous MCF envelope gene (env) initiation regions caused: i) doubling or tripling of spleen cell RNA synthesis, and ii) marked increases in lymphocyte surface Ia and Ig expression relative to control oligonucleotides. Antisense oligos to xenotropic or ecotropic env sequences or to endogenous MCF non-envelope sequences had no effect. These data suggest that endogenous MCF sequences exert an inhibitory influence on the murine immune system. Because endogenous MCF expression is inducible by immune stimuli, such expression could constitute an inhibitory feedback circuit that participates in the regulation of immune homeostasis.

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Accession: 006964617

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PMID: 2477442

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