The bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) is an exogenous retrovirus that is closely related to the human T cell leukaemia viruses. Genetic resistance and susceptibility to persistent lymphocytosis (PL), an advanced subclinical stage of infection characterized by a polyclonal expansion of the infected B cell population, have been mapped to structural motifs in bovine MHC DRB3 (class II) alleles. To determine whether alleles of DRB3 influence the number of BLV-infected B cells in peripheral blood, seven pairs of Holstein cows naturally infected with BLV were matched on the basis of DRB3 genotype (resistance or susceptibility to PL), age, and year of seroconversion. Flow cytometry was used to separate B cell populations that then were tested for the presence of provirus by a single-cell PCR methodology. Animals with the PL-resistance associated DRB3·2*11 allele had significantly fewer BLV-infected B cells than did age- and seroconversion-matched cows with DRB3 alleles associated with susceptibility to PL. Our results demonstrate that DRB3 or a closely linked gene may play a direct role in controlling the number of BLV-infected peripheral B cells in vivo. Association of MHC class II allales with resistance to disease progression in cattle naturally infected with BLV provides a unique immunogenetic model for the study of host resistance to human and other animal retroviral infections.
- Bovine leukaemia virus
- Bovine major histocompatibility complex
- Host resistance