Human cells from 13 different individuals were fused to mouse and rat cells producing abundant type C viral particles. The results demonstrate that incorporation of active DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) into mature type C particles is suppressed in many of the hybrid clones but not in the parental mouse cell clones. This low particle-associated DNA polymerase phenotype was a heritable trait for over 100 cell generations but reversion to a high particle-associated DNA polymerase phenotype was possible. In contrast, no evidence for suppression of viral p30 antigen was found. These results suggest that human cells contain a factor (s) capable of interfering with the normal maturation of the mouse retrovirus DNA polymerase protein; however, it was not possible to assign this function to any of 20 different human chromosomes tested. It is suggested that these somatic cell hybrids may be useful in examining individual events in retrovirus packaging and release.
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