1887

Abstract

Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) varies little in sequence compared with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) and it is difficult to detect HTLV-1 mRNA, proteins or virions in fresh blood. But the strong and chronically activated T cell response to the virus indicates that HTLV-1 proteins are expressed persistently. It now appears that the efficiency of an individual's cytotoxic T cell (CTL) response to HTLV-1 is the chief single determinant of that person's provirus load, which can differ between HTLV-1-infected people by more than 10 000-fold. Progress is now being made towards defining this CTL ‘efficiency’ in terms of host genetics, T cell function, T cell gene expression and mathematical dynamics. Lymphocytes that are naturally infected with HTLV-1 do not produce enveloped extracellular virions in short-term culture and this has reinforced the erroneous conclusion that the virus is latent. But recent evidence shows that HTLV-1 can spread directly between lymphocytes across a specialized, virus-induced cell–cell contact – a ‘viral synapse’. Instead of making extracellular virions, HTLV-1 uses the mobility of the host cell to spread within and between hosts. In this review the evidence is summarized on the persistent gene expression of HTLV-1 , the role of the immune system in protection and pathogenesis in HTLV-1 infection, and the mechanism of cell-to-cell spread of HTLV-1.

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2003-12-01
2020-09-30
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