A chronically infected continuous mouse mammary tumor cell line containing virus particles of type B morphology, free of contaminating type C virions, has been grown in tissue culture. These cells were treated with dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, a potent stimulator of mouse mammary tumor virus expression. Surfaces of untreated and dexamethasone-treated cells were investigated by scanning electron microscopy. Untreated cells demonstrated a moderate expression of mouse mammary tumor virus (80 particles/cell) distributed diffusely over the cell surface. However, virions on dexamethasone-treated cells were localized in clusters of 100 to greater than 2000 virus particles, often with more than one cluster per cell. Dexamethasone-treated cells typically showed a 10-fold increase in cell-associated virus over untreated cells. Concentrated extracellular fluids from untreated and dexamethasonetreated cultures were quantitated for free virus. Dexamethasone-treated culture fluids demonstrated a similar 10-fold increase of extracellular particles, in contrast to untreated cultures. This increase in virus particles on the cell surfaces as well as in the extracellular fluids supports the theory that dexamethasone has a stimulatory effect on viral replication, not just on the release of budding particles. The ultrastructure of budding mouse mammary tumor virus during dexamethasone stimulation, determined by scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and the significance of such an in vitro system for viral immunodiagnosis are discussed.
This investigation was supported by USPHS NO1-CO-25423 and NO1-CN-23294 with the Virus-Cancer Program of the National Cancer Institute.