Infectious mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) is a retrovirus that expresses a superantigen shortly after infection of B cells. The superantigen first drives the polyclonal activation and proliferation of superantigen-reactive CD4+ T cells, which then induce the infected B cells to proliferate and differentiate. Part of the MMTV-induced B cell response leads to the production of Abs that are specific for the viral envelope protein gp52. Here we show that this Ab response has virus-neutralizing activity and confers protection against superinfection by other MMTV strains in vivo as soon as 4 to 7 days after infection. A protective Ab titer is maintained lifelong. Viral infection as well as the superantigen-induced T-B collaboration are required to generate this rapid and long lasting neutralizing Ab response. Polyclonal or superantigen-independent B cell activation, on the contrary, does not lead to detectable virus neutralization. The early onset of this superantigen-dependent neutralizing response suggests that viral envelope-specific B cells are selectively recruited to form part of the extrafollicular B cell response and are subsequently amplified and maintained by superantigen-reactive Th cells.

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