Retrovirus entry into cells is mediated by specific binding of the envelope glycoprotein to a cell membrane receptor. Constitutive envelope gene expression prevents infection by interfering with the binding of viruses which recognize the same receptor. We have used this property to investigate the receptor binding capacities of deleted or truncated murine leukemia virus ecotropic envelope glycoproteins. Friend murine leukemia virus envelope glycoproteins bearing internal amino-terminal deletions, or a soluble 245-amino-acid gp70 amino-terminal fragment, were expressed in NIH 3T3 cells. The susceptibility of these cells to ecotropic and amphotropic virus infection was determined. We observed that both membrane-bound and soluble forms of the gp70 245-amino-acid amino-terminal domain induced resistance to ecotropic virus, indicating that this fragment binds the ecotropic receptor. Binding occurs both at the cell surface and in the endoplasmic reticulum, as shown by the use of soluble envelope fragments either secreted in the culture supernatants or retained in the endoplasmic reticulum lumen by a KDEL sequence. These results suggest that the gp70 amino-terminal domain folds into a structure which recognizes the ecotropic receptor regardless of the carboxy-terminal part of the molecule
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