Bovine leukemia virus (BLV), an oncovirus related to human T-cell leukemia virus type I, causes a B-cell lymphoproliferative syndrome in cattle, leading to an inversion of the T-cell/B-cell ratio and, more rarely, to a B-cell lymphosarcoma. Sheep are highly sensitive to BLV experimental infection and develop B-cell pathologies similar to those in cattle in 90% of the cases. BLV tropism for B cells has been well documented, but the infection of other cell populations may also be involved in the BLV-induced lymphoproliferative syndrome. We thus looked for BLV provirus in other leukocyte populations in sheep and cattle by using PCR. We found that while B cells harbor the highest proviral load, CD8+ T cells, monocytes, and granulocytes, but not CD4+ T cells, also bear BLV provirus. As previously described, we found that persistent lymphocytosis in cows is characterized by an expansion of the CD5+ B-cell subpopulation but we did not confirm this observation in sheep in which the expanded B-cell population expressed the CD11b marker. Nevertheless, BLV could be detected both in bovine CD5+ and CD5- B cells and in sheep CD11b+ and CD11b- B cells, indicating that the restricted BLV tropism for a specific B-cell subpopulation cannot explain its expansion encountered in BLV infection. Altogether, this work shows that BLV tropism in leukocytes is wider than previously thought. These results lead the way to further studies of cellular interactions among B cells and other leukocytes that may intervene in the development of the lymphoproliferative syndrome induced by BLV infection
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