The human T cell leukaemia virus type II (HTLV-II), whose pathogenicity is as yet unclear, was recently found to be associated with intravenous drug abuse in North America and Europe. HTLV-II was isolated from two Italian drug abusers belonging to the same cohort and coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Two new isolates, HTLV-II Gu and Va, were established in a culture of BJAB cells, a continuous B cell line (Epstein—Barr virus-negative), and characterized by nucleotide sequence analysis of the long terminal repeat (LTR) and portions of the and X regions. These sequences were compared to those of the HTLV-II Mo isolate reported in the literature. No major variations were observed in important regulatory elements of LTR nor in the stem-bulge-loop configuration known to be essential for binding of rex protein. The results obtained from the sequence of the 1988 nucleotides examined indicated a 1.6% variability between the Gu and Va isolates and about 6% with respect to Mo. Notable differences were found in the structure of putative open reading frames of the X region when compared to those reported for the Mo isolate. Restriction analysis of proviral DNA of two isolates and comparison with the physical map of the Mo isolate confirmed the existence of genetic heterogeneity in the HTLV-II group and demonstrated that the new isolates Gu and Va belong to the HTLV-IIb subtype. The results of this study show that the new isolates have distinct features with respect to the Mo isolate though all important regulatory elements of the LTR appear to be well conserved.


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