We determined the prevalence of mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) in introduced, free-roaming, wild house mice (Mus musculis) and compared envelope (env) and long terminal repeat (LTR) nucleotide sequences of viruses from wild mice and other sources. Mice were trapped on two occasions, in October (spring) and the following May (autumn) of 2003–2004 in the Mallee region of northwestern Victoria, Australia. Animals were assigned to three cohorts (subadult, young, and old adults) based on their body length. The DNA from salivary glands (62 of 62 mice) and mammary glands (19 of 32 female mice) was screened for the MMTV envelope (env) gene, and the long terminal repeat (LTR) region including the superantigen (SAg) sequence was amplified from a subset. Positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results for the MMTV env PCR were detected from salivary gland tissues from 60 of 62 (97%) mice and from mammary gland tissues from 19 of 19 (100%) female mice. All but two mice were positive for MMTV env across both sexes and the three cohorts. Similarity of the SAg carboxy-terminal nucleotide sequence between free-roaming wild house mice varied from 64% to 99%, although most of this variation was due to DNA sequences from two mice (M4 and M5). Phylogenetic analysis of the LTR region did not result in distinct grouping of sequences derived from mice when comparisons were made among sequences from mice in the US, Europe, and Australia, and MMTV-like virus (MMTV-LV) env sequences derived from human hosts. We report a high prevalence of the MMTV env sequence during a sampling period when peak mouse density was low. This indicates that MMTV is an enzootic virus in a population of wild, free-ranging mice in northwestern Victoria, in Australia. Phylogenetic analysis, based upon env and LTR sequence data, indicated minor variation among all isolates. This represents the first report on the prevalence of MMTV in mouse populations in Australia.
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Vol. 43 • No. 4