Twelve long-term cell lines were established from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) or cerebrospinal fluid cells of patients with human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) seropositive tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP) originating from the French West Indies, French Guyana or the Central African Republic. Most of these long-term interleukin-2-dependent cell lines exhibited a pattern characteristic of CD4-activated T cells with high expression of CD2, CD3 and CD4 antigens, associated with a strong density of TAC and DR molecules. Nevertheless, in five cases CD8 expression was present at a significant level. HTLV-I antigens were never detected in uncultured PBMC, but they were expressed in a few cells after short-term culture and after 4 months the majority of the cells were HTLV-I positive, as demonstrated by indirect immunofluorescence (IF) using polyclonal or monoclonal anti-p19 and anti-p24 antibodies. Low and variable levels of reverse transcriptase activity were detected in supernatant fluids of these cell lines only after 4 months of culture, when at least 50% of the cells exhibited HTLV-I antigens by IF. However, numerous type C HTLV-I-like viral particles were detected, mostly in the extracellular spaces, with rare budding particles. Similar findings were found in three T cell lines derived from West Indian and African patients with adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATLL). Differences in high polypeptides were detected by Western blot in cell lysates when comparing TSP- or ATLL-derived T cell lines. Thus a signal of 62K was easily detectable in all the TSP lines, but not in the ATLL lines. In all cell lines bands corresponding to p53, p24 and p19 viral core polypeptides were present, as was the gene-coded protein p46.


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