We have recently described the isolation and molecular characteristics of two recombinant avian leukosis subgroup J viruses (ALV J) with an avian leukosis virus subgroup A envelope (r5701A and r6803A). In the present study, we examined the role of the subgroup A envelope in the pathogenesis of these recombinant viruses. Chickens of line 1515 × 71 were inoculated at 1 day of age with r5701A, r6803A, Rous-associated virus type 1 (RAV-1), or strain ADOL-Hcl of ALV-J. At 2, 4, 10, 18, and 32 wk postinoculation (PI), chickens were tested for avian leukosis virus (ALV)-induced viremia, shedding, and neutralizing antibodies. All except one chicken inoculated with the recombinant viruses (98%) developed neutralizing antibodies by 10 wk PI compared with only 16% and 46% of the ADOL-Hcl and RAV-1–inoculated birds, respectively. ALV-induced tumors and mortality in the two groups inoculated with recombinant viruses were different. The incidence of tumors in groups inoculated with r5701A or RAV-1 was 100% compared with only 9% in the groups inoculated with r6803A or ADOL-Hcl. The data suggest that differences in pathogenicity between the two recombinant viruses might be due to differences in the sequence of the 3′ untranslated region (presence or absence of the E element), and, therefore, not only the envelope but also other elements of the viral genome play an important role in the pathogenesis of ALV.

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