de Noronha CM, Reinhart TA, Mullins JI (1996). Generation and role of defective proviruses in cytopathic feline leukemia virus (FeLV-FAIDS) infections. Journal of virology, 70(1), 359-67. (pubmed)
Cytopathic feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infections of feline T-cell line (FeT-cell) cultures led to the accumulation and maintenance of threefold more proviruses with deletions within the polymerase gene (pol) than minimally cytopathic FeLV infections. Over 60% of the viral DNA from cytopathic infections bore deletions in pol. Characterization of DNA sequences adjoining the deletions revealed that the junctions were most often flanked by RNA splice donor and acceptor consensus motifs. A thymidine-to-cytidine mutation introduced at the +2 position of one RNA splice donor-like motif inhibited formation of the two most prevalent viral DNA species with deletions, confirming the origin of many proviruses with deletions from reverse transcription of aberrantly spliced viral RNA species. An example of deletion by misalignment was also characterized. Viral inocula obtained from cells recovered after cytopathic infections were attenuated in their ability to cause cytopathic effects (CPE) and were able to confer superinfection resistance to naïve FeT-cells, despite maintaining envelope gene (env) sequences with full cytopathic potential. This suggested that viral genomes with deletions, rather than being required for cytopathicity, play a role in protecting cells from CPE. Indeed, expression of a molecularly cloned provirus bearing one of the characterized deletions attenuated CPE in FeT-cells caused by superinfecting cytopathic virus.