Shope papillomavirus or cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) is one of the first small DNA tumour viruses to be characterized. Although the natural host for CRPV is the cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus), CRPV can infect domestic laboratory rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and induce tumour outgrowth and cancer development. In previous studies, investigators attempted to passage CRPV in domestic rabbits, but achieved very limited success, leading to the suggestion that CRPV infection in domestic rabbits was abortive. The persistence of specific anti-L1 antibody in sera from rabbits infected with either virus or viral DNA led us to revisit the questions as to whether L1 and infectious CRPV can be produced in domestic rabbit tissues. We detected various levels of L1 protein in most papillomas from CRPV-infected rabbits using recently developed monoclonal antibodies. Sensitive in vitro infectivity assays additionally confirmed that extracts from these papillomas were infectious. These studies demonstrated that the CRPV/New Zealand White rabbit model could be used as an in vivo model to study natural virus infection and viral life cycle of CRPV and not be limited to studies on abortive infections.
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