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1.  High Prevalence of Skin Disorders among HTLV-1 Infected Individuals Independent of Clinical Status 
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection can increase the risk of developing skin disorders. This study evaluated the correlation between HTLV-1 proviral load and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells count among HTLV-1 infected individuals, with or without skin disorders (SD) associated with HTLV-1 infection [SD-HTLV-1: xerosis/ichthyosis, seborrheic dermatitis or infective dermatitis associated to HTLV-1 (IDH)].
A total of 193 HTLV-1-infected subjects underwent an interview, dermatological examination, initial HTLV-1 proviral load assay, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells count, and lymphproliferation assay (LPA).
A total of 147 patients had an abnormal skin condition; 116 (79%) of them also had SD-HTLV-1 and 21% had other dermatological diagnoses. The most prevalent SD-HTLV-1 was xerosis/acquired ichthyosis (48%), followed by seborrheic dermatitis (28%). Patients with SD-HTLV-1 were older (51 vs. 47 years), had a higher prevalence of myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) (75%), and had an increased first HTLV-1 proviral load and basal LPA compared with patients without SD-HTLV-1. When excluding HAM/TSP patients, the first HTLV-1 proviral load of SD-HTLV-1 individuals remains higher than no SD-HTLV-1 patients.
There was a high prevalence of skin disorders (76%) among HTLV-1-infected individuals, regardless of clinical status, and 60% of these diseases are considered skin disease associated with HTLV-1 infection.
Author Summary
HTLV-1 infection may increase the risk of developing skin disorders. A total of 193 HTLV-1 infected subjects were studied, including asymptomatic carriers and HAM/TSP patients. Of the subjects, 76% had an abnormal skin condition, with a high prevalence both among HTLV-1 asymptomatic carriers and HAM/TSP patients. The most prevalent SD-HTLV-1 was xerosis/acquired ichthyosis (48%), followed by seborrheic dermatitis (28%). Patients with SD-HTLV-1 were older (51 vs. 47 years), had a higher prevalence of myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) (75%) and an increased first HTLV-1 proviral load compared with patients without SD-HTLV-1. When excluding HAM/TSP patients, the first HTLV-1 proviral load of SD-HTLV-1 individuals remains higher than no SD-HTLV-1 patients. Thus, skin diseases are highly prevalent among HTLV-1-infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC3820737  PMID: 24244779
2.  High Expression of CD244 and SAP Regulated CD8+ T Cell Responses of Patients with HTLV-I Associated Neurologic Disease 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(12):e1000682.
HTLV-I-specific CD8+ T cells have been characterized with high frequencies in peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid and production of proinflammatory cytokines, which contribute to central nervous system inflammation in HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). However, little is known about the differences in CD8+ T cell activation status between asymptomatic carrier (ACs) and patients with HAM/TSP. The expression of CD244, a signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM) family receptor, was significantly higher on CD8+ T cells in HTLV-I-infected patients, both ACs and patients with HAM/TSP, than those on healthy normal donors (NDs). Blockade of CD244 inhibited degranulation and IFN-γ production in CD8+ T cells of patients with HAM/TSP, suggesting that CD244 is associated with effector functions of CD8+ T cells in patients with HAM/TSP. Moreover, SLAM-associated protein (SAP) was overexpressed in patients with HAM/TSP compared to ACs and NDs. SAP expression in Tax-specific CTLs was correlated in the HTLV-I proviral DNA loads and the frequency of the cells in HTLV-I-infected patients. SAP knockdown by siRNA also inhibited IFN-γ production in CD8+ T cells of patients with HAM/TSP. Thus, the CD244/SAP pathway was involved in the active regulation of CD8+ T cells of patients with HAM/TSP, and may play roles in promoting inflammatory neurological disease.
Author Summary
Human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) is a retrovirus that persistently infects 20 million people worldwide. The majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic carriers of the virus, but 5–10% of infected people develop either adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) or a chronic, progressive neurological disease termed HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). HAM/TSP is characterized by central nervous system (CNS) inflammation including HTLV-I-specific CD8+ T cells where disease progression and pathogenesis is associated with a dysregulation of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, although the mechanism of this dysregulation remains to be defined. Here we demonstrate that a signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM) family of receptors, CD244, was overexpressed on CD8+ T cells of HTLV-I-infected patients than those of healthy normal donors, and that the upregulation of the adaptor protein, SAP, in CD8+ T cells distinguished HTLV-I infected individuals with and without neurologic disease. Both CD244 and SAP were associated with effector functions (high expression of IFN-γ) of CD8+ T cells in patients with HAM/TSP. This finding has important implication for T cell-mediated pathogenesis in human chronic viral infection associated with imbalance of immune function.
PMCID: PMC2779586  PMID: 19997502
3.  Bronchoalveolar lymphocytosis correlates with human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) proviral DNA load in HTLV-I carriers 
Thorax  2005;60(2):138-143.
Background: A study was undertaken to investigate the pathogenesis of pulmonary involvement in human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) carriers.
Methods: The bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell profile of 30 HTLV-I carriers (15 asymptomatic HTLV-I carriers (AHCs) and 15 symptomatic HTLV-I carriers (SHCs)) with chronic inflammatory diseases of respiratory tract and eight patients with HTLV-I associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) was investigated. The HTLV-I proviral deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) load in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and BAL fluid from HTLV-I carriers was estimated using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method and the correlation between the lymphocyte number in BAL fluid and the HTLV-I proviral DNA load in PBMCs and BAL fluid was examined.
Results: The percentage of lymphocytes in BAL fluid was increased (>18%) in 11 of 30 HTLV-I carriers although there was no significant difference compared with control subjects. In HTLV-I carriers the lymphocyte number in BAL fluid correlated well with the copy number of HTLV-I proviral DNA in PBMCs. In addition, the copy number of HTLV-I proviral DNA in BAL fluid correlated well with the number of lymphocytes (both CD4+ and CD8+ cells) in BAL fluid.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that pulmonary lymphocytosis can occur in a subset of HTLV-I carriers without HAM/TSP and that the increased HTLV-I proviral DNA load may be implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary involvement in HTLV-I carriers.
PMCID: PMC1747290  PMID: 15681503
4.  Comparison of HTLV-I Proviral Load in Adult T Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATL), HTLV-I-Associated Myelopathy (HAM-TSP) and Healthy Carriers 
Objective(s): Human T Lymphocyte Virus Type one (HTLV-I) is a retrovirus that infects about 10-20 million people worldwide. Khorasan province in Iran is an endemic area. The majority of HTLV-I-infected individuals sustain healthy carriers but small proportion of infected population developed two progressive diseases: HAM/TSP and ATL. The proviral load could be a virological marker for disease monitoring, therefore in the present study HTLV-I proviral load has been evaluated in ATL and compared to HAM/TSP and healthy carriers.
Materials and Methods: In this case series study, 47 HTLV-I infected individuals including 13 ATL, 23 HAM/TSP and 11 asymptomatic subjects were studied. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were investigated for presence of HTLV-I DNA provirus by PCR using LTR and Tax fragments. Then in infected subjects, HTLV-I proviral load was measured using real time PCR TaqMan method.
Results: The average age of patients in ATL was 52±8, in HAM/TSP 45.52±15.17 and in carrier’s 38.65±14.9 years which differences were not statistically significant. The analysis of data showed a significant difference in mean WBC among study groups (ATL vs HAM/TSP and carriers P=0.0001). Moreover, mean HTLV-I proviral load was 11967.2 ± 5078, 409 ± 71.3 and 373.6 ± 143.3 in ATL, HAM/TSP and Healthy Carriers, respectively. The highest HTLV-I proviral load was measured in ATL group that had a significant correlation with WBC count (R=0.495, P=0.001). The proviral load variations between study groups was strongly significant (ATL vs carrier P=0.0001; ATL vs HAM/TSP P= 0.0001 and HAM/TSP vs carriers P< 0.05).
Conclusion : The present study demonstrated that HTLV-I proviral load was higher in ATL group in comparison with HAM/TSP and healthy carriers. Therefore, HTLV-I proviral load is a prognostic factor for development of HTLV-I associated diseases and can be used as a monitoring marker for the efficiency of therapeutic regime.
PMCID: PMC3881246  PMID: 24470863
HTLV-I; HAM/TSP; ATL; HTLV-I proviral load
5.  HTLV-1 modulates the frequency and phenotype of FoxP3+CD4+ T cells in virus-infected individuals 
Retrovirology  2012;9:46.
HTLV-1 utilizes CD4 T cells as the main host cell and maintains the proviral load via clonal proliferation of infected CD4+ T cells. Infection of CD4+ T cells by HTLV-1 is therefore thought to play a pivotal role in HTLV-1-related pathogenicity, including leukemia/lymphoma of CD4+ T cells and chronic inflammatory diseases. Recently, it has been reported that a proportion of HTLV-1 infected CD4+ T cells express FoxP3, a master molecule of regulatory T cells. However, crucial questions remain unanswered on the relationship between HTLV-1 infection and FoxP3 expression.
To investigate the effect of HTLV-1 infection on CD4+ T-cell subsets, we used flow cytometry to analyze the T-cell phenotype and HTLV-1 infection in peripheral mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of four groups of subjects, including 23 HTLV-1-infected asymptomatic carriers (AC), 10 patients with HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), 10 patients with adult T-cell leukemia (ATL), and 10 healthy donors. The frequency of FoxP3+ cells in CD4+ T cells in AC with high proviral load and patients with HAM/TSP or ATL was higher than that in uninfected individuals. The proviral load was positively correlated with the percentage of CD4+ T cells that were FoxP3+. The CD4+FoxP3+ T cells, themselves, were frequently infected with HTLV-1. We conclude that FoxP3+ T- cells are disproportionately infected with HTLV-1 during chronic infection. We next focused on PBMCs of HAM/TSP patients. The expression levels of the Treg associated molecules CTLA-4 and GITR were decreased in CD4+FoxP3+ T cells. Further we characterized FoxP3+CD4+ T-cell subsets by staining CD45RA and FoxP3, which revealed an increase in CD45RA−FoxP3low non-suppressive T-cells. These findings can reconcile the inflammatory phenotype of HAM/TSP with the observed increase in frequency of FoxP3+ cells. Finally, we analyzed ATL cells and observed not only a high frequency of FoxP3 expression but also wide variation in FoxP3 expression level among individual cases.
HTLV-1 infection induces an abnormal frequency and phenotype of FoxP3+CD4+ T cells.
PMCID: PMC3403885  PMID: 22647666
6.  HTLV-1 Evades Type I Interferon Antiviral Signaling by Inducing the Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 1 (SOCS1) 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(11):e1001177.
Human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiologic agent of Adult T cell Leukemia (ATL) and the neurological disorder HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Although the majority of HTLV-1–infected individuals remain asymptomatic carriers (AC) during their lifetime, 2–5% will develop either ATL or HAM/TSP, but never both. To better understand the gene expression changes in HTLV-1-associated diseases, we examined the mRNA profiles of CD4+ T cells isolated from 7 ATL, 12 HAM/TSP, 11 AC and 8 non-infected controls. Using genomic approaches followed by bioinformatic analysis, we identified gene expression pattern characteristic of HTLV-1 infected individuals and particular disease states. Of particular interest, the suppressor of cytokine signaling 1—SOCS1—was upregulated in HAM/TSP and AC patients but not in ATL. Moreover, SOCS1 was positively correlated with the expression of HTLV-1 mRNA in HAM/TSP patient samples. In primary PBMCs transfected with a HTLV-1 proviral clone and in HTLV-1-transformed MT-2 cells, HTLV-1 replication correlated with induction of SOCS1 and inhibition of IFN-α/β and IFN-stimulated gene expression. Targeting SOCS1 with siRNA restored type I IFN production and reduced HTLV-1 replication in MT-2 cells. Conversely, exogenous expression of SOCS1 resulted in enhanced HTLV-1 mRNA synthesis. In addition to inhibiting signaling downstream of the IFN receptor, SOCS1 inhibited IFN-β production by targeting IRF3 for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. These observations identify a novel SOCS1 driven mechanism of evasion of the type I IFN antiviral response against HTLV-1.
Author Summary
Infection with HTLV-1 leads to the development of Adult T cell Leukemia (ATL) or the neurological disorder HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Although the majority of HTLV-1–infected individuals remain asymptomatic carriers (AC) during their lifetime, 2–5% will develop either ATL or HAM/TSP. Using gene expression profiling of CD4+ T lymphocytes from HTLV-1 infected patients, we identified Suppressor of cytokine signaling 1 (SOCS1) as being highly expressed in HAM/TSP and AC patients. SOCS1 expression positively correlated with the high HTLV-1 mRNA load that is characteristic of HAM/TSP patients. SOCS1 inhibited cellular antiviral signaling during HTLV-1 infection by degrading IRF3, an essential transcription factor in the interferon pathway. Our study reveals a novel evasion mechanism utilized by HTLV-1 that leads to increased retroviral replication, without triggering the innate immune response.
PMCID: PMC2973829  PMID: 21079688
7.  Humoral immune response to HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ) in HTLV-1-infected individuals 
Retrovirology  2013;10:19.
Human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection can lead to development of adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) or HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) in a subset of infected subjects. HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ) gene has a critical role in HTLV-1 infectivity and the development of ATL and HAM/TSP. However, little is known about the immune response against HBZ in HTLV-1-infected individuals. In this study, we examined antibody responses against HBZ in serum/plasma samples from 436 subjects including HTLV-1 seronegative donors, asymptomatic carriers (AC), ATL, and HAM/TSP patients using the luciferase immunoprecipitation system.
Immunoreactivity against HBZ was detected in subsets of all HTLV-1-infected individuals but the test did not discriminate between AC, ATL and HAM/TSP. However, the frequency of detection of HBZ-specific antibodies in the serum of ATL patients with the chronic subtype was higher than in ATL patients with the lymphomatous subtype. Antibody responses against HBZ were also detected in cerebrospinal fluid of HAM/TSP patients with anti-HBZ in serum. Antibody responses against HBZ did not correlate with proviral load and HBZ mRNA expression in HAM/TSP patients, but the presence of an HBZ-specific response was associated with reduced CD4+ T cell activation in HAM/TSP patients. Moreover, HBZ-specific antibody inhibited lymphoproliferation in the PBMC of HAM/TSP patients.
This is the first report demonstrating humoral immune response against HBZ associated with HTLV-I infection. Thus, a humoral immune response against HBZ might play a role in HTLV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3584941  PMID: 23405908
HTLV-1; Antibody; HAM/TSP; ATL; Asymptomatic carriers; Serum; CSF
8.  High HTLV-1 proviral load, a marker for HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis, is also detected in patients with infective dermatitis associated with HTLV-1 
Salvador (BA, Brazil) is an endemic area for human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). The overall prevalence of HTLV-1 infection in the general population has been estimated to be 1.76%. HTLV-1 carriers may develop a variety of diseases such as adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and infective dermatitis associated with HTLV-1 (IDH). IDH is a chronic and severe form of childhood exudative and infective dermatitis involving mainly the scalp, neck and ears. It has recently been observed that 30% of patients with IDH develop juvenile HAM/TSP. The replication of HTLV-1 has been reported to be greater in adult HAM/TSP patients than in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers. In the current study, the proviral load of 28 children and adolescents with IDH not associated with HAM/TSP was determined and the results were compared to those obtained in 28 HTLV-1 adult carriers and 28 adult patients with HAM/TSP. The proviral load in IDH patients was similar to that of patients with HAM/TSP and much higher than that found in HTLV-1 carriers. The high levels of proviral load in IDH patients were not associated with age, duration of illness, duration of breast-feeding, or activity status of the skin disease. Since proviral load is associated with neurological disability, these data support the view that IDH patients are at high risk of developing HAM/TSP.
PMCID: PMC2963476  PMID: 19578703
Infective dermatitis associated with HTLV-1; HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis; HTLV-1 proviral loads
9.  High human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)-specific precursor cytotoxic T lymphocyte frequencies in patients with HTLV-1-associated neurological disease 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1993;177(6):1567-1573.
The frequencies of human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)- specific CD8+ precursor cytotoxic T lymphocytes (pCTL) were quantitated from lymphocytes obtained from the peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of infected individuals with and without HTLV-1-associated neurological disease. An estimate of the pCTL was obtained by separating CD8+ cells, plating these cells in limiting dilution, and testing wells for HTLV-1 specific lysis. Targets consisted of autologous lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) infected with vaccinia constructs expressing HTLV-1 gene products or LCL pulsed with HTLV-1 synthetic peptides. In patients with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), the frequency of HTLV-1 p40X-specific pCTL was at least 40-280-fold higher than in asymptomatic HTLV-1-infected individuals. All HAM/TSP patients (five of five) predominantly recognized HTLV-1 products encoded within the pX region. Lower pCTL to env were demonstrated in three patients, and only one of five HAM/TSP patients had pCTL to gag. A synthetic peptide corresponding to the tax region of HTLV-1 (peptide 11-19, amino acid sequence LLFGYPVYV) was recognized in association with human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A2 in two HLA-A2 HAM/TSP patients with a high CD8+ pCTL frequency of 1/325 and 1/265, respectively. A second immunodominant region of HTLV-1 tax (peptide 90- 55, amino acid sequence VPYKRIEEL) was identified to be restricted by HLA-B14 in two HLA-B14 HAM/TSP patients with a CD8+ pCTL frequency of 1/640 and 1/1,125, respectively. Lymphocytes from the CSF of a patient with HAM/TSP also showed a pCTL frequency against p40X of similar magnitude to that demonstrated from peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). The HLA-A2-mediated CSF pCTL activity to the immunodominant tax- specific peptide 11-19 was also comparable to pCTL from PBL. These results indicate that an extremely high pCTL frequency to HTLV-1 tax- encoded peptides may be related to pathogenesis of myeloneuropathy associated with HTLV-1.
PMCID: PMC2191033  PMID: 8496677
10.  The Prevalence of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Infection among Blood Donors in Southeast China, 2004-2013 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(4):e0003685.
The human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) which is associated with the diseases of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, HTLV-1 associated myelopathy / tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and HTLV-associated uveitis, can cause transfusion-transmitted infections. Although HTLV screening of blood donors was already routinely performed in developed countries, little is know about the HTLV prevalence among blood donors in developing countries which do not perform HTLV screening, such as China.
Objectives &Aims
To systematically characterize the prevalence of HTLV infection among bloods in southeast China.
A 10-year survey for HTLV prevalence in blood donors was performed in Xiamen, southeast China, during 2004-2013. The HTLV-1/2 of blood donations were screened by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, following with confirmation by western blot assay and 9nucleic acid testing. The HTLV-1 prevalences in donors from different cities were calculated. Viral sequences derived from identified HTLV-positive cases were sequenced and analyzed.
Among 253,855 blood donors, 43 were confirmed to be seropositive for HTLV-1 (16.9 per 100,000 95% CI: 12.3-22.8) and none HTLV-2 infection was found. The HTLV-1 prevalence varied significantly in donors from different cities. Donors from cities in Fujian province (24.3 per 100,000, 95%CI: 17.4-33.1) had a significantly higher (p=0.001) HTLV-1 seroprevalence than those who were born in non-Fujian cities (3.4 per 100,000, 95%CI: 0.7-9.8). Among nine cities in Fujian province, the highest prevalence was found in blood donors from Ningde (171.3 per 100,000, 95%CI: 91.3-292.8) which is a coastal city in the northeast of Fujian. Molecular characterization of viral sequences from 27 HTLV-1 carriers revealed 25 were Transcontinental subtype of genotype A and 2 were Japanese subtype of genotype A. Interestingly, 12 of 25 Transcontinental subtype sequences harbored a characteristic L55P mutation in viral gp46 protein, which was only presented in the Transcontinental subtype sequences from Japan and Taiwan but not in that from other countries.
Although China is considered to be a non-endemic region for HTLV, the HTLV-1 prevalence in blood donors is significantly higher in Fujian province, southeast China. A higher prevalence of HTLV-1 in the Fujian may be attributed to endemic foci in the city of Ningde.
Author Summary
The human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) which is associated with the diseases of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, tropical spastic paraparesis etc., can cause transfusion-transmitted infections, it also can be transmitted by sex or breastfeeding. Globally, approximately 20 million people are estimated to be infected by HTLV-1, and 90% of them remain asymptomatic carriers during their lives. Previous studies had revealed that Japan, Central and Western Africa, the Caribbean islands and Central and South American were the regions with the highest HTLV-1 prevalence in the world. Little is know about the HTLV prevalence in China. We performed a 10-year blood screening survey to systematically characterize the prevalence of HTLV infection among bloods in Fujian province in southeast China since 2004. The HTLV-1 prevalence in blood donors is significantly higher in southeast China, especially in the northern cities of Fujian province, such as Ningde. Moreover, similar molecular characteristics of prevalent HTLV-1 sequences in southeast China, Taiwan and Japan suggested a same origin of these viruses.
PMCID: PMC4382043  PMID: 25830656
11.  HTLV-1 Integration into Transcriptionally Active Genomic Regions Is Associated with Proviral Expression and with HAM/TSP 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(3):e1000027.
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) causes leukaemia or chronic inflammatory disease in ∼5% of infected hosts. The level of proviral expression of HTLV-1 differs significantly among infected people, even at the same proviral load (proportion of infected mononuclear cells in the circulation). A high level of expression of the HTLV-1 provirus is associated with a high proviral load and a high risk of the inflammatory disease of the central nervous system known as HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). But the factors that control the rate of HTLV-1 proviral expression remain unknown. Here we show that proviral integration sites of HTLV-1 in vivo are not randomly distributed within the human genome but are associated with transcriptionally active regions. Comparison of proviral integration sites between individuals with high and low levels of proviral expression, and between provirus-expressing and provirus non-expressing cells from within an individual, demonstrated that frequent integration into transcription units was associated with an increased rate of proviral expression. An increased frequency of integration sites in transcription units in individuals with high proviral expression was also associated with the inflammatory disease HAM/TSP. By comparing the distribution of integration sites in human lymphocytes infected in short-term cell culture with those from persistent infection in vivo, we infer the action of two selective forces that shape the distribution of integration sites in vivo: positive selection for cells containing proviral integration sites in transcriptionally active regions of the genome, and negative selection against cells with proviral integration sites within transcription units.
Author Summary
The human leukaemia virus HTLV-1 causes a lifelong infection that cannot be cleared by the immune system. By integrating into the host's DNA, the virus can lie dormant within the cell. The virus can then be reactivated, by processes that are only partly understood, causing the infected cell to multiply and leading to an increase in the quantity of virus in the infected person. In some infected people, the virus is reactivated much faster than in others, and such people are more likely to develop HTLV-1-associated inflammatory diseases such as HAM/TSP, which results in paralysis of the legs. It is not understood what determines this rate of viral reactivation in each person. In this study, we found that integration of HTLV-1 in the host's DNA close to other genes was associated with faster viral reactivation and a higher probability of HAM/TSP. By comparing the viral integration site positions in samples from patients and in cells infected with HTLV-1 in the laboratory, we can identify some of the major forces that allow the virus to persist lifelong whilst avoiding eradication by the immune response.
PMCID: PMC2265437  PMID: 18369476
12.  Leukotrienes Are Upregulated and Associated with Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1)-Associated Neuroinflammatory Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51873.
Leukotrienes (LTs) are lipid mediators involved in several inflammatory disorders. We investigated the LT pathway in human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection by evaluating LT levels in HTLV-1-infected patients classified according to the clinical status as asymptomatic carriers (HACs) and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) patients. Bioactive LTB4 and CysLTs were both increased in the plasma and in the supernatant of peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures of HTLV-1-infected when compared to non-infected. Interestingly, CysLT concentrations were increased in HAM/TSP patients. Also, the concentration of plasma LTB4 and LTC4 positively correlated with the HTLV-1 proviral load in HTLV-1-infected individuals. The gene expression levels of LT receptors were differentially modulated in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells of HTLV-1-infected patients. Analysis of the overall plasma signature of immune mediators demonstrated that LT and chemokine amounts were elevated during HTLV-1 infection. Importantly, in addition to CysLTs, IP-10 was also identified as a biomarker for HAM/TSP activity. These data suggest that LTs are likely to be associated with HTLV-1 infection and HAM/TSP development, suggesting their putative use for clinical monitoring.
PMCID: PMC3527467  PMID: 23284797
13.  Systems Biology Approaches Reveal a Specific Interferon-Inducible Signature in HTLV-1 Associated Myelopathy 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(1):e1002480.
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a retrovirus that persists lifelong in the host. In ∼4% of infected people, HTLV-1 causes a chronic disabling neuroinflammatory disease known as HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The pathogenesis of HAM/TSP is unknown and treatment remains ineffective. We used gene expression microarrays followed by flow cytometric and functional assays to investigate global changes in blood transcriptional profiles of HTLV-1-infected and seronegative individuals. We found that perturbations of the p53 signaling pathway were a hallmark of HTLV-1 infection. In contrast, a subset of interferon (IFN)-stimulated genes was over-expressed in patients with HAM/TSP but not in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers or patients with the clinically similar disease multiple sclerosis. The IFN-inducible signature was present in all circulating leukocytes and its intensity correlated with the clinical severity of HAM/TSP. Leukocytes from patients with HAM/TSP were primed to respond strongly to stimulation with exogenous IFN. However, while type I IFN suppressed expression of the HTLV-1 structural protein Gag it failed to suppress the highly immunogenic viral transcriptional transactivator Tax. We conclude that over-expression of a subset of IFN-stimulated genes in chronic HTLV-1 infection does not constitute an efficient host response but instead contributes to the development of HAM/TSP.
Author Summary
Infection with the Human T Lymphotropic virus is widespread in the tropics and subtropics, where it causes a chronic disabling disease of the nervous system abbreviated as HAM/TSP. There is no effective treatment available for HAM/TSP, because it is not understood how the virus causes the neuronal damage that results in the clinical symptoms of weakness and paralysis of the legs. Here, we compared the frequencies of cell populations and gene expression profiles from diseased and asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers to identify abnormalities in biological pathways that cause HAM/TSP. We discovered a distinct group of genes that is over-expressed in white blood cells in patients with HAM/TSP, but not asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers or patients with the clinically similar disease multiple sclerosis. The expression of these genes is induced by interferons, a group of anti-viral proteins that are usually beneficial to the host but can also cause inflammation. We also found that interferons did not efficiently suppress HTLV-1 protein expression in vitro. We conclude that interferons do not control chronic HTLV-1 infection but instead contribute to the development of HAM/TSP. Our study provides new insights into the development of HTLV-1-associated diseases and opens new areas of therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3266939  PMID: 22291590
14.  Immunological and Viral Features in Patients with Overactive Bladder Associated with Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 Infection 
Journal of medical virology  2012;84(11):1809-1817.
The majority of patients infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type 1 (HTLV-1) are considered carriers, but a high frequency of urinary symptoms of overactive bladder, common in HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) have been documented in these patients. The aim of this study was to determine if immunological and viral factors that are seen in HAM/TSP are also observed in these patients. Participants were classified as HTLV-1 carriers (n=45), HTLV-1 patients suffering from overactive bladder (n=45) and HAM/TSP (n=45). Cells from HTLV-1 overactive bladder patients produced spontaneously more proinflammatory cytokines than carriers. TNF-α and IL-17 levels were similar in HAM/TSP and HTLV-1 overactive bladder patients. High proviral load was found in patients with overactive bladder and HAM/TSP and correlated with proinflammatory cytokines. In contrast with findings in patients with HAM/TSP, serum levels of Th1 chemokines were similar in HTLV-1 overactive bladder and carriers. Exogenous addition of regulatory cytokines decreased spontaneous IFN-γ production in cell cultures from HTLV-1 overactive bladder patients. The results show that HTLV-1 overactive bladder and HAM/TSP patients have in common some immunological features as well as similar proviral load profile. The data show that HTLV-1 overactive bladder patients are still able to down regulate their inflammatory immune response. In addition, these patients express levels of chemokines similar to carriers, which may explain why they have yet to develop the same degree of spinal cord damage as seen in patients with HAM/TSP. These patients present symptoms of overactive bladder, which may be an early sign of HAM/TSP.
PMCID: PMC3457650  PMID: 22997085
HTLV-1; immune response; cytokines; chemokines; proviral load
15.  CSF CXCL10, CXCL9, and Neopterin as Candidate Prognostic Biomarkers for HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis 
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) -associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a rare chronic neuroinflammatory disease. Since the disease course of HAM/TSP varies among patients, there is a dire need for biomarkers capable of predicting the rate of disease progression. However, there have been no studies to date that have compared the prognostic values of multiple potential biomarkers for HAM/TSP.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from HAM/TSP patients and HTLV-1-infected control subjects were obtained and tested retrospectively for several potential biomarkers, including chemokines and other cytokines, and nine optimal candidates were selected based on receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Next, we evaluated the relationship between these candidates and the rate of disease progression in HAM/TSP patients, beginning with a first cohort of 30 patients (Training Set) and proceeding to a second cohort of 23 patients (Test Set). We defined “deteriorating HAM/TSP” as distinctly worsening function (≥3 grades on Osame's Motor Disability Score (OMDS)) over four years and “stable HAM/TSP” as unchanged or only slightly worsened function (1 grade on OMDS) over four years, and we compared the levels of the candidate biomarkers in patients divided into these two groups. The CSF levels of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 (CXCL10), CXCL9, and neopterin were well-correlated with disease progression, better even than HTLV-1 proviral load in PBMCs. Importantly, these results were validated using the Test Set.
As the CSF levels of CXCL10, CXCL9, and neopterin were the most strongly correlated with rate of disease progression, they represent the most viable candidates for HAM/TSP prognostic biomarkers. The identification of effective prognostic biomarkers could lead to earlier detection of high-risk patients, more patient-specific treatment options, and more productive clinical trials.
Author Summary
HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a rare neurodegenerative disease caused by infection with human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). HTLV-1 infects 10–20 million people worldwide, and, depending on the region, 0.25–3.8% of infected individuals develop HAM/TSP. As the disease progresses, chronic inflammation damages the spinal cord and lower limb and bladder function gradually decline. In the worst cases, even middle-aged patients can become perpetually bedridden. Today, there are treatments that may alleviate the symptoms to a certain degree, but there is no cure that can halt disease progression, and there are no known biomarkers to indicate the level and speed of disease progression. In this study, we successfully identified three promising candidate biomarkers. We believe that the use of these biomarkers could lead to more accurate prognoses and more prudent, patient-specific treatment plans. We not only hope that these biomarkers are sensitive enough to use as selection criteria for clinical trials, but also that measurements of these biomarkers can be used to accurately evaluate drug effectiveness. In short, the biomarkers we identified have the potential to help more effectively treat current HAM/TSP patients and to pave the way for new drugs to potentially cure future HAM/TSP patients.
PMCID: PMC3794911  PMID: 24130912
16.  Genetic Characterization of Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 in Mozambique: Transcontinental Lineages Drive the HTLV-1 Endemic 
Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiological agent of adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It has been estimated that 10–20 million people are infected worldwide, but no successful treatment is available. Recently, the epidemiology of this virus was addressed in blood donors from Maputo, showing rates from 0.9 to 1.2%. However, the origin and impact of HTLV endemic in this population is unknown.
To assess the HTLV-1 molecular epidemiology in Mozambique and to investigate their relationship with HTLV-1 lineages circulating worldwide.
Blood donors and HIV patients were screened for HTLV antibodies by using enzyme immunoassay, followed by Western Blot. PCR and sequencing of HTLV-1 LTR region were applied and genetic HTLV-1 subtypes were assigned by the neighbor-joining method. The mean genetic distance of Mozambican HTLV-1 lineages among the genetic clusters were determined. Human mitochondrial (mt) DNA analysis was performed and individuals classified in mtDNA haplogroups.
LTR HTLV-1 analysis demonstrated that all isolates belong to the Transcontinental subgroup of the Cosmopolitan subtype. Mozambican HTLV-1 sequences had a high inter-strain genetic distance, reflecting in three major clusters. One cluster is associated with the South Africa sequences, one is related with Middle East and India strains and the third is a specific Mozambican cluster. Interestingly, 83.3% of HIV/HTLV-1 co-infection was observed in the Mozambican cluster. The human mtDNA haplotypes revealed that all belong to the African macrohaplogroup L with frequencies representatives of the country.
The Mozambican HTLV-1 genetic diversity detected in this study reveals that although the strains belong to the most prevalent and worldwide distributed Transcontinental subgroup of the Cosmopolitan subtype, there is a high HTLV diversity that could be correlated with at least 3 different HTLV-1 introductions in the country. The significant rate of HTLV-1a/HIV-1C co-infection, particularly in the Mozambican cluster, has important implications for the controls programs of both viruses.
Author Summary
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the causative agent of Adult T-Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATL), the Tropical Spastic Paraparesis/HTLV-1-associated Myelopathy (TSP/HAM) and other inflammatory diseases, including dermatitis, uveitis, and myositis. It is estimated that 2–8% of the infected persons will develop a HTLV-1-associated disease during their lifetimes, frequently TSP/HAM. Thus far, there is not a specific treatment to this progressive and chronic disease. HTLV-1 has means of three transmission: (i) from mother to child during prolonged breastfeeding, (ii) between sexual partners and (iii) through blood transfusion. HTLV-1 has been characterized in 7 subtypes and the geographical distribution and the clinical impact of this infection is not well known, mainly in African population. HTLV-1 is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Mozambique is a country of southeastern Africa where TSP/HAM cases were reported. Recently, our group estimated the HTLV prevalence among Mozambican blood donors as 0.9%. In this work we performed a genetic analysis of HTLV-1 in blood donors and HIV/HTLV co-infected patients from Maputo, Mozambique. Our results showed the presence of three HTLV-1 clusters within the Cosmopolitan/Transcontinental subtype/subgroup. The differential rates of HIV-1/HTLV-1 co-infection in the three HTLV-1 clusters demonstrated the dynamic of the two viruses and the need for implementation of control measures focusing on both retroviruses.
PMCID: PMC3075232  PMID: 21532745
17.  IL28B Gene Polymorphism SNP rs8099917 Genotype GG Is Associated with HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP) in HTLV-1 Carriers 
The polymorphisms of IL28B have been described as important in the pathogenesis of infections caused by some viruses. The aim of this research was to evaluate whether IL28B gene polymorphisms (SNP rs8099917 and SNP rs12979860) are associated with HAM/TSP.
The study included 229 subjects, classified according to their neurological status in two groups: Group I (136 asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers) and Group II (93 HAM/TSP patients). The proviral loads were quantified, and the rs8099917 and rs12979860 SNPs in the region of IL28B-gene were analyzed by StepOnePlus Real-time PCR System.
A multivariate model analysis, including gender, age, and HTLV-1 DNA proviral load, showed that IL28B polymorphisms were independently associated with HAM/TSP outcome in rs12979860 genotype CT (OR = 2.03; IC95% = 0.96–4.27) and in rs8099917 genotype GG (OR = 7.61; IC95% = 1.82–31.72).
Subjects with SNP rs8099917 genotype GG and rs12979618 genotype CT may present a distinct immune response against HTLV-1 infection. So, it seems reasonable to suggest that a search for IL28B polymorphisms should be performed for all HTLV-1-infected subjects in order to monitor their risk for disease development; however, since this is the first description of such finding in the literature, we should first replicate this study with more HTLV-1-infected persons to strengthen the evidence already provided by our results.
Author Summary
New evidence has shown that the pathogenic mechanism of disease-associated HTLV-1 infection is an impairment of the immunity. More recently, it has been demonstrated that IL28B polymorphisms are more likely to occur among HTLV-1 infected subjects and are associated with higher proviral loads in HTLV-1 carriers. Based on anti-HCV properties exhibited by IL28B, we examined the possibility of an association between IL28B polymorphisms (rs8099917 and rs12979860 SNPs) and HAM/TSP occurrence in a large cohort of HTLV-1-infected subjects in Sao Paulo city, Brazil. This study included 229 HTLV-1-infected subjects classified according to their neurological status in two groups (asymptomatic vs HAM/TSP cases), and observed that persons with SNP rs8099917 genotype GG and rs12979860 genotype CT may present a distinct immune response against HTLV-1 infection. Thus, it seems reasonable to suggest that a search for IL28B polymorphisms should be performed for all HTLV-1-infected subjects in order to monitor their risk for HAM/TSP development.
PMCID: PMC4169378  PMID: 25233462
18.  HTLV-1 proviral integration sites differ between asymptomatic carriers and patients with HAM/TSP 
Virology Journal  2014;11:172.
HTLV-1 causes proliferation of clonal populations of infected T cells in vivo, each clone defined by a unique proviral integration site in the host genome. The proviral load is strongly correlated with odds of the inflammatory disease HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). There is evidence that asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers (ACs) have a more effective CD8 + T cell response, including a higher frequency of HLA class I alleles able to present peptides from a regulatory protein of HTLV-1, HBZ. We have previously shown that specific features of the host genome flanking the proviral integration site favour clone survival and spontaneous expression of the viral transactivator protein Tax in naturally infected PBMCs ex vivo. However, the previous studies were not designed or powered to detect differences in integration site characteristics between ACs and HAM/TSP patients. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the genomic environment of the provirus differs systematically between ACs and HAM/TSP patients, and between individuals with strong or weak HBZ presentation.
We used our recently described high-throughput protocol to map and quantify integration sites in 95 HAM/TSP patients and 68 ACs from Kagoshima, Japan, and 75 ACs from Kumamoto, Japan. Individuals with 2 or more HLA class I alleles predicted to bind HBZ peptides were classified ‘strong’ HBZ binders; the remainder were classified ‘weak binders’.
The abundance of HTLV-1-infected T cell clones in vivo was correlated with proviral integration in genes and in areas with epigenetic marks associated with active regulatory elements. In clones of equivalent abundance, integration sites in genes and active regions were significantly more frequent in ACs than patients with HAM/TSP, irrespective of HBZ binding and proviral load. Integration sites in genes were also more frequent in strong HBZ binders than weak HBZ binders.
Clonal abundance is correlated with integration in a transcriptionally active genomic region, and these regions may promote cell proliferation. A clone that reaches a given abundance in vivo is more likely to be integrated in a transcriptionally active region in individuals with a more effective anti-HTLV-1 immune response, such those who can present HBZ peptides or those who remain asymptomatic.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-172) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4192323  PMID: 25270762
HTLV-1; Human T cell lymphotropic virus-type 1; HBZ; HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor; HAM/TSP; HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis; Integration site; CD8+ T cell
19.  Anti-HTLV antibody profiling reveals an antibody signature for HTLV-I-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP) 
Retrovirology  2008;5:96.
HTLV-I is the causal agent of adult T cell leukemia (ATLL) and HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Biomarkers are needed to diagnose and/or predict patients who are at risk for HAM/TSP or ATLL. Therefore, we investigated using luciferase immunoprecipitation technology (LIPS) antibody responses to seven HTLV-I proteins in non-infected controls, asymptomatic HTLV-I-carriers, ATLL and HAM/TSP sera samples. Antibody profiles were correlated with viral load and examined in longitudinal samples.
Anti-GAG antibody titers detected by LIPS differentiated HTLV-infected subjects from uninfected controls with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, but did not differ between HTLV-I infected subgroups. However, anti-Env antibody titers were over 4-fold higher in HAM/TSP compared to both asymptomatic HTLV-I (P < 0.0001) and ATLL patients (P < 0.0005). Anti-Env antibody titers above 100,000 LU had 75% positive predictive value and 79% negative predictive value for identifying the HAM/TSP sub-type. Anti-Tax antibody titers were also higher (P < 0.0005) in the HAM/TSP compared to the asymptomatic HTLV-I carriers. Proviral load correlated with anti-Env antibodies in asymptomatic carriers (R = 0.76), but not in HAM/TSP.
These studies indicate that anti-HTLV-I antibody responses detected by LIPS are useful for diagnosis and suggest that elevated anti-Env antibodies are a common feature found in HAM/TSP patients.
PMCID: PMC2580768  PMID: 18937847
20.  Expansion in CD39+ CD4+ Immunoregulatory T Cells and Rarity of Th17 Cells in HTLV-1 Infected Patients Is Associated with Neurological Complications 
HTLV-1 infection is associated with several inflammatory disorders, including the neurodegenerative condition HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It is unclear why a minority of infected subjects develops HAM/TSP. CD4+ T cells are the main target of infection and play a pivotal role in regulating immunity to HTLV and are hypothesized to participate in the pathogenesis of HAM/TSP. The CD39 ectonucleotidase receptor is expressed on CD4+ T cells and based on co-expression with CD25, marks T cells with distinct regulatory (CD39+CD25+) and effector (CD39+CD25−) function. Here, we investigated the expression of CD39 on CD4+ T cells from a cohort of HAM/TSP patients, HTLV-1 asymptomatic carriers (AC), and matched uninfected controls. The frequency of CD39+ CD4+ T cells was increased in HTLV-1 infected patients, regardless of clinical status. More importantly, the proportion of the immunostimulatory CD39+CD25− CD4+ T-cell subset was significantly elevated in HAM/TSP patients as compared to AC and phenotypically had lower levels of the immunoinhibitory receptor, PD-1. We saw no difference in the frequency of CD39+CD25+ regulatory (Treg) cells between AC and HAM/TSP patients. However, these cells transition from being anergic to displaying a polyfunctional cytokine response following HTLV-1 infection. CD39−CD25+ T cell subsets predominantly secreted the inflammatory cytokine IL-17. We found that HAM/TSP patients had significantly fewer numbers of IL-17 secreting CD4+ T cells compared to uninfected controls. Taken together, we show that the expression of CD39 is upregulated on CD4+ T cells HAM/TSP patients. This upregulation may play a role in the development of the proinflammatory milieu through pathways both distinct and separate among the different CD39 T cell subsets. CD39 upregulation may therefore serve as a surrogate diagnostic marker of progression and could potentially be a target for interventions to reduce the development of HAM/TSP.
Author Summary
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) has been estimated to infect 10–20 million worldwide. The majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic, however, 2% to 3% develop a neurodegenerative disorder called HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The reasons why persons with HTLV-1 develop these complications appear to be multiple and complex. Cellular immune response has been implicated in the development of inflammatory alterations in these patients, however the pathogenic mechanisms for disease progression remain unclear. Regulatory CD4+ T cells (Treg) and Th17 cells derive from a common progenitor and conflicting results regarding frequency and function are found in the development of HAM/TSP. The expression of the CD39 ectoenzyme, a molecule that can mediate immunostimulatory and inhibitory effects, is useful to define IL-17 secreting cell populations, suppressive CD4+ T cells and CD4+ T cells with immunostimulatory properties. The interplay of these T-cell subsets may reveal important aspects of HAM/TSP pathogenesis. In this study, we performed an evaluation of the immunoregulatory CD4+ T-cell subsets defined by CD39 expression including Th17 cells. Our results present phenotypic and functional alterations in the CD4+ T cell profile that could account for the transition from asymptomatic status to HAM/TSP, predicting clinical disease risk and tracking disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3566991  PMID: 23409198
21.  Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging White Matter Lesions Are Frequent in HTLV-I Carriers and Do Not Discriminate from HAM/TSP 
AIDS research and human retroviruses  2007;23(12):1499-1504.
Human T lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-I is known to cause HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and other pronounced disease in less than 4% of those infected. However, evidence is accumulating that a proportion of HTLV-I carriers have neurological and urological symptoms without fulfilling criteria for HAM/TSP. Brain white matter (WM) lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are frequently seen in HAM/TSP. HTLV-I carriers with MRI scans for other neurological diagnoses have WM lesions more frequently than expected. We studied 10 patients with HAM/TSP and 20 HTLV-I carriers without overt neurological disease and evaluated clinical characteristics, viral load, total, small, large, confluent WM lesion number, and lesion volume on MRI. Cerebral WM lesions were found in of 85% of HTLV-I carriers and 80% of HAM/TSP patients. Lesion number, size or location was no different between carriers and HAM/TSP. Cognitive function was lower in HAM/TSP (p = 0.045) but did not correlate with WM lesion number. Viral load and peripheral blood mononuclear cell interferon-γ production correlated positively (p = 0.001) but did not correlate with lesion number or volume. Conventional brain MRI frequently shows WM lesions in HTLV-I-infected individuals suggesting potential early central nervous system inflammation with rare development of progressive disease.
PMCID: PMC2593463  PMID: 18160007
22.  In vivo expression of the HBZ gene of HTLV-1 correlates with proviral load, inflammatory markers and disease severity in HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) 
Retrovirology  2009;6:19.
Recently, human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ), encoded from a minus strand mRNA was discovered and was suggested to play an important role in adult T cell leukemia (ATL) development. However, there have been no reports on the role of HBZ in patients with HTLV-1 associated inflammatory diseases.
We quantified the HBZ and tax mRNA expression levels in peripheral blood from 56 HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) patients, 10 ATL patients, 38 healthy asymptomatic carriers (HCs) and 20 normal uninfected controls, as well as human leukemic T-cell lines and HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines, and the data were correlated with clinical parameters. The spliced HBZ gene was transcribed in all HTLV-1-infected individuals examined, whereas tax mRNA was not transcribed in significant numbers of subjects in the same groups. Although the amount of HBZ mRNA expression was highest in ATL, medium in HAM/TSP, and lowest in HCs, with statistical significance, neither tax nor the HBZ mRNA expression per HTLV-1-infected cell differed significantly between each clinical group. The HTLV-1 HBZ, but not tax mRNA load, positively correlated with disease severity and with neopterin concentration in the cerebrospinal fluid of HAM/TSP patients. Furthermore, HBZ mRNA expression per HTLV-1-infected cell was decreased after successful immunomodulatory treatment for HAM/TSP.
These findings suggest that in vivo expression of HBZ plays a role in HAM/TSP pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2653460  PMID: 19228429
23.  Functional Activity of Monocytes and Macrophages in HTLV-1 Infected Subjects 
The Human T lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) infects predominantly T cells, inducing proliferation and lymphocyte activation. Additionally, HTLV-1 infected subjects are more susceptible to other infections caused by other intracellular agents. Monocytes/macrophages are important cells in the defense against intracellular pathogens. Our aims were to determine the frequency of monocytes subsets, expression of co-stimulatory molecules in these cells and to evaluate microbicidal ability and cytokine and chemokine production by macrophages from HTLV-1 infected subjects. Participants were 23 HTLV-1 carriers (HC), 22 HAM/TSP patients and 22 healthy subjects (HS) not infected with HTLV-1. The frequencies of monocyte subsets and expression of co-stimulatory molecules were determined by flow cytometry. Macrophages were infected with L. braziliensis or stimulated with LPS. Microbicidal activity of macrophages was determined by optic microscopy. Cytokines/chemokines from macrophage supernatants were measured by ELISA. HAM/TSP patients showed an increase frequency of intermediate monocytes, but expression of co-stimulatory molecules was similar between the groups. Macrophages from HTLV-1 infected individuals were infected with L. braziliensis at the same ratio than macrophages from HS, and all the groups had the same ability to kill Leishmania parasites. However, macrophages from HTLV-1 infected subjects produced more CXCL9 and CCL5, and less IL-10 than cells from HS. While there was no correlation between IFN-γ and cytokine/chemokine production by macrophages, there was a correlation between proviral load and TNF and CXCL10. These data showed a dissociation between the inflammatory response and microbicidal ability of macrophages from HTLV-1 infected subjects. While macrophages ability to kill an intracellular pathogen did not differ among HTLV-1 infected subjects, these cells secreted high amount of chemokines even in unstimulated cultures. Moreover the increasing inflammatory activity of macrophages was similar in HAM/TSP patients and HC and it was related to HTLV-1 proviral load rather than the high IFN-γ production observed in these subjects.
Author Summary
HTLV-1 predominantly infects T cells, inducing cell proliferation and activation. While there is a larger amount of studies regarding T cells functions in HTLV-1 infected subjects, little is known about innate immunity. We evaluated monocyte and macrophage functions in HTLV-1 infected subjects. We observed that HAM/TSP patients have an increased frequency of intermediate monocytes, but expression of co-stimulatory molecules in these cells was similar between HTLV-1 infected subjects and healthy subjects (HS). Additionally, the microbicidal ability of macrophages from HTLV-1 infected subjects to kill Leishmania braziliensis is preserved, and these cells showed inflammatory profile, producing more CXCL9 and CCL5, and less IL-10 than macrophages from HS. It was important to determine if the exacerbated ability of macrophages to secrete cytokine was due to IFN-γ production. While there was no correlation between IFN-γ levels by PBMCs and cytokine/chemokine production by macrophages, there was a direct correlation between proviral load and TNF and CXCL10 levels. Our data indicate that despite the high production of proinflammatory mediators, macrophages from HTLV-1 infected subjects kill an intracellular pathogen in similar levels than cells from HS and pointed out for the role of viral factors inducing the inflammatory response in these cells.
PMCID: PMC4270688  PMID: 25521499
24.  Strongyloidiasis and Infective Dermatitis Alter Human T Lymphotropic Virus-1 Clonality in vivo 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003263.
Human T-lymphotropic Virus-1 (HTLV-1) is a retrovirus that persists lifelong by driving clonal proliferation of infected T-cells. HTLV-1 causes a neuroinflammatory disease and adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. Strongyloidiasis, a gastrointestinal infection by the helminth Strongyloides stercoralis, and Infective Dermatitis associated with HTLV-1 (IDH), appear to be risk factors for the development of HTLV-1 related diseases. We used high-throughput sequencing to map and quantify the insertion sites of the provirus in order to monitor the clonality of the HTLV-1-infected T-cell population (i.e. the number of distinct clones and abundance of each clone). A newly developed biodiversity estimator called “DivE” was used to estimate the total number of clones in the blood. We found that the major determinant of proviral load in all subjects without leukemia/lymphoma was the total number of HTLV-1-infected clones. Nevertheless, the significantly higher proviral load in patients with strongyloidiasis or IDH was due to an increase in the mean clone abundance, not to an increase in the number of infected clones. These patients appear to be less capable of restricting clone abundance than those with HTLV-1 alone. In patients co-infected with Strongyloides there was an increased degree of oligoclonal expansion and a higher rate of turnover (i.e. appearance and disappearance) of HTLV-1-infected clones. In Strongyloides co-infected patients and those with IDH, proliferation of the most abundant HTLV-1+ T-cell clones is independent of the genomic environment of the provirus, in sharp contrast to patients with HTLV-1 infection alone. This implies that new selection forces are driving oligoclonal proliferation in Strongyloides co-infection and IDH. We conclude that strongyloidiasis and IDH increase the risk of development of HTLV-1-associated diseases by increasing the rate of infection of new clones and the abundance of existing HTLV-1+ clones.
Author Summary
HTLV-1 is a human retrovirus estimated to infect 20 million people world-wide and is causing in a small proportion of the infected individuals an inflammatory disease or a leukemia/lymphoma. HTLV-1 persists lifelong by driving clonal proliferation of infected T-cells. Strongyloidiasis, a gastrointestinal infection by an helminth (Strongyloides stercoralis) and Infective Dermatitis associated with HTLV-1 (IDH), a skin inflammation with bacterial infection, appear to increase the risk of developing HTLV-1-related diseases. It is well known that the chance of developing HTLV-1-related diseases increases with the number of cells infected by the virus (also called proviral load). It is also known that HTLV-1-infected individuals co-infected by Strongyloides or affected by IDH have a higher proviral load, but the mechanism is still unclear. Consequently, the aim of this study was to test if co-infection increases the total number and/or the abundance (or size) of HTLV-1-infected T-cell clones. We have shown that the significantly increased proviral load in HTLV-1-infected individuals with IDH or strongyloidiasis is due to an increase in the mean clone abundance (bigger clones), not to an increase in the number of infected clones. These patients appear to be less capable of restricting clone abundance than those with HTLV-1 alone.
PMCID: PMC3617147  PMID: 23592987
25.  Molecular characterization of HTLV-1 gp46 glycoprotein from health carriers and HAM/TSP infected individuals 
Virology Journal  2013;10:75.
Human T-cell Leukemia Virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiological agent of tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-associated myelopathy (HAM/TSP) that can be identified in around 0.25%–3.8% of the infected population. Disease progression can be monitored by the proviral load and may depend on genetic factors, however, it is not well understood why some HTLV-1 infected people develop the disease while others do not. The present study attempts to assess the molecular diversity of gp46 glycoprotein in HAM/TSP patients and Health Carrier (HC) individuals.
Blood samples were collected from 10 individuals, and DNA was extracted from PBMCs to measure the HTLV-1 proviral load. The gp46 coding sequences were amplified PCR, cloned and sequenced. The molecular characterization was performed using bioinformatics tools.
The median HTLV-1 proviral load of HC (n = 5) and HAM/TSP (n = 5) patients was similar (average 316,227 copies/106 PBMCs). The gp46 molecular characterization of 146 clones (70 HC and 76 HAM/TSP) revealed an overall diversity, within HC and HAM/TSP clones, of 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively. Five frequent mutations were detected among groups (HAM/TSP and HC clone sequences). A single amino acid (aa) substitution (S35L) was exclusive for the HC group, and three gp46 substitutions (F14S, N42H, G72S) were exclusive for the HAM/TSP group. The remaining frequent mutation (V247I) was present in both groups (p = 0.0014). The in silico protein analysis revealed that the mutated alleles F14S and N42H represent more hydrophilic and flexible protein domains that are likely to be less antigenic. The Receptor Binding Domain is quite variable in the HAM/TSP group. Two other domains (aa 53–75 and 175–209) that contain multiple linear T-cell epitopes showed genetic diversity in both HAM/TSP and HC groups. Further analysis revealed 27 and 13 T-cell epitopes for class I HLA alleles and class II HLA alleles, when analyzing the entire gp46.
The most common gp46 mutations were not associated clinical status because they were found in only one individual, except for the V247I mutation, that was found at viral clones from HAM/TSP ad HC individuals. Because of this, we cannot associate any of the gp46 found mutations with the clinical profile.
PMCID: PMC3599561  PMID: 23510700
HTLV-1; HAM/TSP; Gp46; Mutation

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