We have analyzed the effects of an antiserum prepared against BALB/c endogenous xenotropic C-type virus on the humoral immune response of mice. Both in vivo and in vitro, this serum suppresses the response to sheep red blood cells, an effect that can be absorbed out by purified BALB/c xenotropic C-type virus or Friend leukemia virus, but not by Rous sarcoma virus. The serum produces its maximum effect when administered together with or before the antigen, but not 24 hr later. This suggests that it acts on an early event of the immune response. Evidence is presented to show that the critical viral antigen is expressed before the spleen cells are experimentally stimulated by antigen. The same immunosuppressive effect was observed in a variety of mouse strains, including the high-leukemia incidence AKR strain and virusfree 129/J mice, indicating that it is independent of the expression of endogenous virus. The finding that a viral antigen is involved in the transition from a resting to a dividing lymphocyte is discussed with respect to viral involvement in leukemia.

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