Infection of L-cells with minute virus of mice (i), a lymphotropic strain of minute virus of mice, resulted in the emergence of host range mutant viruses capable of a lytic infection that destroys the initially restrictive parental cells. Despite that, the culture was not lysed completely; instead, a persistent infection resulted which lasted at least 150 days. Throughout the persistent infection, extensive changes occurred in both the tissue tropism of the progeny virus and in the phenotypic properties of the cells. Mutant cells were selected which were increasingly restrictive to the replication of the resident virus, but concomitant changes in the virus enabled it to replicate in a subpopulation of the restrictive cells. The persistent infection could be reconstructed by infection of mutant cells with mutant virus; in contrast, neither infection of parental cells with mutant virus nor infection of mutant cells with parental virus led to persistence. On the basis of these results, we suggest that virus-cell coevolution provides the primary mechanism for the initiation and the maintenance of the persistent infection
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