Nervous system tissues from a number of patients with idiopathic neurological disorders were examined for biochemical evidence of RNA tumor virus infection. RNase-sensitive DNA polymerase activity was found in a cytoplasmic particulate fraction from two patients with Guamanian amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but not in brains from two normal U.S. individuals. The buoyant density of the enzyme-containing fraction was 1.16-1.18 g/ml and could be converted to a denser region of the gradient (1.24 g/ml) by treatment with the nonionic surfactant, Sterox. The cation and detergent requirements for the endogenous RNase-sensitive DNA polymerase reaction were determined. The early (5 min) endogenous reverse transcriptase product was analyzed by cesium sulfate gradient centrifugation. RNase- and heat-sensitive RNA-DNA hybrids were detected in the product analysis of two ALS, one Parkinsonism-dementia (PD) brain, and two brains from asymptomatic Chamorros but not in brains from normal U.S. individuals and a number of patients with neuro-psychiatric disorders. The DNA product was a 4.5S heteropolymer that hybridized more extensively to RNA extracted from the enzyme-containing pellet from PD brain as compared to a similar fraction from normal U.S. brain. The DNA product appeared to be unrelated to Rausvher or visna virus 70S RNA as determined by RNA-[-3H]DNA hybridization.

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