We have previously reported that expression of the melanoma-associated antigen (MAA) recognized by MM2-9B6 monoclonal antibody in B16 melanoma was closely associated with C-type ecotropic retroviral particle production. Our present data show that this MAA is encoded by the env gene of an ecotropic retrovirus produced by B16 melanoma cells. Transfection of H-2Kb or H-2Kd genes into two individual clones isolated from B16BL6 melanoma, BL6-8 (H-2Kb-, H-2Db+) and BL6-2 (H-2Kb-, H-2Db-), resulted in a loss of MAA expression. Electron immunohistochemical analysis of melanoma cells and reverse transcriptase assay revealed that the loss of MAA expression in the H-2K gene-transfected cells paralleled the elimination of retroviral particles. In contrast, expression of the endogenous H-2Db gene or transfection with the H-2Dd or H-2Ld gene had no effect on MAA expression or retrovirus production. Northern blot analysis showed equivalent retroviral messages in retrovirus-producing and-nonproducing BL6 melanoma clones. Southern blot analysis revealed that H-2Kb-negative BL6 melanoma cells contain at least four different ecotropic retroviruses with different insertion sites that somatically emerged during malignant transformation or progression. Restriction enzyme analysis showed various changes in proviral DNAs from the H-2Kb- and H-2Kd-transfected cells that failed to produce retroviral particles. The observed alterations in the patterns of PstI- and HindIII-digested proviral DNA were found to be due to the appearance of PstI and loss of HindIII restriction sites in the pol region as a result of several nucleotide substitutions. Thus, BL6 melanoma cells produce melanoma-specific ecotropic murine leukemia viruses that encode serologically detectable cell surface MAA. The transfection of BL6 melanoma cells with H-2Kb or H-2Kd genes but not H-2Dd or H-2Ld genes resulted in a loss of MAA expression that was attributed to the changes in proviral DNA and loss of melanoma-specific ecotropic retrovirus particle production.


Supported by NIH Grant CA59903.

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