Chronic murine leukemia viruses (MuLVs) are retroviruses which induce leukemias/lymphomas after long latency periods. The induction of leukemia by MuLVs is complex, requiring multiple steps beginning with infection of an appropriate target cell. A number of investigators have proposed a bone marrow-thymus axis in the development of retrovirus induced T-cell lymphoma in which cells are initially infected in the bone marrow. These bone marrow cells or their progeny migrate to the thymus during the disease process. In our system using adult, immunocompetent BALB.K mice infected with E-55(+) MuLV, a similar pattern is seen; integrated virus is initially detectable in the bone marrow and spleen and only later in the thymus. In order to better understand the leukemic process, we analyzed the bone marrow from adult, immunocompetent BALB.K mice infected with the E-55(+) MuLV in bone marrow colony assays. The results from these assays demonstrate that either a pluripotent progenitor cell or an early progenitor cell is a target in the bone marrow for the virus.
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