Infection of C57BL/6 mice with the LP-BM5 mixture of retroviruses causes a severe murine acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (MAIDS). After infection, the entire CD4 T cell population shifts to a memory/activated phenotype and the CD4 cells become anergic to further stimulation. This drastic shift in phenotype could result either from a response of naive cells to the virus or its products and/or from the selective expansion of cells already having a memory phenotype. We have investigated whether both naive and memory CD4 T cells can be anergized during BM5 infection and whether each subset is sufficient for disease development. We show that V beta 3/V alpha 11 TCR transgenic mice that have > 98% CD4 T cells with naive phenotype develop MAIDS. Their spleens and lymph nodes become enlarged, their CD4 population expressing the TCR transgene shifts to a memory/activated phenotype, and the CD4 cells neither proliferate nor secrete IL-2 in response to specific Ag, a fragment of pigeon cytochrome C, or to mitogens. Adult thymectomized mice, having memory but not naive CD4 T cells, also developed MAIDS and anergy of the CD4 T cell population at a rate and extent comparable to normal control mice. Furthermore, CD4 T cells from mice primed with keyhole limpet hemocyanin 6 wk before infection with BM5 also became unresponsive to KLH during MAIDS. Thus, both naive and memory CD4 T cells are rendered anergic by the BM5 virus infection and it is likely that each subset is sufficient to sustain the development of MAIDS.

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