We report the first complete nucleotide sequence of an African human T-cell lymphotropic virus type II. This new strain, called HTLV-II-Gab (Gab), was obtained from the uncultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells of a 44-year-old healthy Gabonese male who lived in a remote rural area, with neither history of blood transfusion nor sexual intercourse with non-Africans. Using nested PCR, 25 overlapping fragments, representing the entire proviral genome, were obtained, cloned and sequenced. The overall nucleotide sequence comparison with the four other available complete HTLV-II genomes indicated that Gab was more closely related to the HTLV-II subtype b prototypes (98.9, 99.3 and 98.2% nucleotide similarity with G12, NRA and GU respectively) than to the subtype a prototype (95.1% nucleotide similarity with Mo). Restriction profiles studies and phylogenetic analyses confirmed that Gab was a subtype b strain. However, this strain represents a newly described restriction fragment length polymorphism subtype, closely related to one of the rare partially sequenced African isolates originating from a pygmy living in Cameroon (PYGCAM). Nevertheless, the very low genetic divergence observed between this new African strain and the American strains raises several questions on the origins and level of genetic variability over time of this human retrovirus.


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