- Mouse interferon (IFN) was found to inhibit murine sarcoma virus (MSV)-induced neoplastic transformation of normal rat kidney (NRK) cells. This effect was observed upon examining the formation of foci of morphologically altered cells and colonies of anchorage-independent cells. IFN had no cytotoxic effect on MSV-transformed NRK cells, nor on their focus or colony-forming ability. It was therefore apparent that its inhibitory effect was directed against the viral role in cell transformation. In attempts to define the mechanism of this effect, we found that IFN delayed the initiation of the cytoplasmic viral DNA synthesis. However, the amount of this DNA eventually formed in IFN-treated cells was the same as in the control cells. Furthermore, the transport of this DNA to the nucleus was slower in IFN-treated cells, although all of it was finally transferred. However, while most of the viral DNA integrated into the genome of the control cells, very little integration occurred in IFN-treated cells. The unintegrated viral DNA of these cells was slowly degraded. Therefore, if the cells recovered from the antiviral effect of IFN when intact viral DNA molecules still existed in their nucleus, they could resume viral DNA integration and cell transformation. IFN was found to block viral DNA supercoiling. Since supercoiled viral DNA is considered to be a precursor to integrated provirus, it seems that the inhibition of both integration and cell transformation is due to this impaired coiling.