We derived an amphotropic murine leukemia virus (MuLV) type-specific probe for use in Southern blot hybridizations with cloned and genomic DNAs. A 133-base-pair RsaI-RsaI fragment from the 5' env region of the amphotropic viral isolate 4070A was subcloned into M13mp18 and radiolabeled in vitro. The probe detected the proviral DNAs in mink cells infected with seven different amphotropic MuLV isolates. The probe did not cross hybridize with the DNAs of molecular clones of ecotropic, mink cell focus-forming, or xenotropic MuLVs; nor did it anneal to the proviral DNAs of four xenotropic or six mink cell focus-forming viral isolates grown in mink cells. DNAs of 12 inbred laboratory mouse strains and more than 15 different wild mouse species and subspecies were examined for the presence of endogenous amphotropic env-related fragments. Amphotropic env-related sequences were found only in the DNAs of wild mice trapped in southern California in an area previously shown to harbor mice producing infectious amphotropic virus. Restriction enzyme analyses of DNAs from these mice showed that amphotropic sequences were not present as germ line copies but were the result of congenital or horizontal infection or both in this population. The DNAs of 11 various mammalian and avian species, including both natural predators of mice and squabs from the farms with virus-positive mice, lacked amphotropic envelope-related sequences
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