We have previously shown that mice simultaneously infected with the murine mammary tumor virus (MuMTV) and with certain slow murine leukemia viruses (MLV) have an increased resistance to the pathological effects of both agents. Here we report that milk-transmitted MuMTV also delays the development of the acute erythroleukemia induced by Friend leukemia virus (FLV), and retards, or prevents in some cases, the development of long-term lymphomas caused by its helper component. This is confirmed by the observation that the average life span of MuMTV-carrying mice infected with FLV or its helper component is prolonged by over 30% as compared to that of MuMTV-free animals infected with the same agents and by the finding that the replication of Friend viruses is reduced in mice neonatally exposed to MuMTV.

Since the antibody responses of mice to MuMTV and to FLV were not cross-reactive, we searched for antiviral activity in the tissues of mice exposed to MuMTV, FLV, or the helper component of FLV. Low levels of interferon-α/-β were consistently detected in spleen extracts from mice infected with all these agents but could not be demonstrated in the spleens of uninfected BALB/c mice; thus, the chronic production of endogenous interferon is likely to play a major role in the reciprocal interference in vivo between retroviruses belonging to different genera.

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This work was supported by grants from the Italian National Research Council (Progetti Finalizzati: Controllo Crescita Neoplastica No. 83.00954.96 and Oncologia No. 84.00498.44 and 84.00458.44).

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