Some murine-endogenous retroviruses, making up ∼10% of the mouse genome, are induced during the course of experimental sepsis in which lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a pathogenic component of Gram-negative bacteria, often plays a critical role. In this study, we investigated whether LPS stress induces the production of murine leukemia virus type-endogenous retrovirus (MuLV-ERV) virions in primary lymphoid cells. LPS treatment of cells (single-cell suspensions and sorted B- and T-cells) isolated from seven lymphoid organs of C57BL/6J mice resulted in a differential increase in the production of MuLV-ERV virions in most cells examined. Interestingly, among the 34 unique MuLV-ERV U3 sequences cloned from the viral genomic RNAs, the nuclear respiratory factor 1 (transcription factor) element was present only in the 20 U3 sequences that were derived from the LPS-induced MuLV-ERV U3 bands. Using the U3 sequences as a probe, 55 putative MuLV-ERV loci were mapped onto the C57BL/6J mouse genome and 15 of them retained full coding potential. Furthermore, one full-length recombinant MuLV-ERV originating from a locus on chromosome 13 was determined to be responsive to LPS stress. The findings from this study suggest that LPS stress differentially activates MuLV-ERV virion production in lymphoid organs in a cell type- and MuLV-ERV-specific manner. Further investigation is needed to define the role of MuLV-ERVs in the LPS signalling pathway(s) in general, as well as in the pathogenesis of sepsis.
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