Infection of broiler chickens with subgroup J avian leukosis virus (ALV) results in the induction of myeloid tumors. However, although egg-type chickens are susceptible to infection with ALV-J, the tumor incidence is very low, and on rare occasions the tumors observed are of the myeloid lineage. We recently described the isolation of an ALV (AF115-4) from commercial egg-type chickens suffering from myeloid leukosis. AF115-4 was initially identified as an ALV-J isolate based on PCR analysis of the long terminal repeat (LTR). However, further characterization of the viral envelope indicated that the virus is recombinant with subgroups B envelope and J LTR. Here we further characterize this recombinant virus at both the molecular and biological levels. We show that the AF115-4 isolate expresses a recombinant envelope glycoprotein encoded by a subgroup B gp85 region and a subgroup E gp37 region. The host range of AF115-4 was analyzed using cells resistant to infection by subgroups A/B, J, or E; this shows that no ALV-J was present in the isolates obtained from the affected chickens. Additional antigenic characterization of AF115-4 using chicken sera specific for subgroups B or J indicated that no ALV-J was present in the samples examined. Inoculation of AF115-4 into ALV-susceptible 15I5 × 71 chickens resulted in the induction of lymphoid leukosis but not the expected myeloid leukosis affecting the commercial chickens. These results suggest that differences in the genetic makeup of the chickens from which AF115-4 was isolated and the line 15I5 × 71 used in the present experiments may be responsible for the observed differences in pathogenicity. In addition, the results suggest that ALV-J continues to evolve by recombination, generating new viruses with different pathological properties.
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Vol. 50 • No. 4