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Blood. 2002 Jan 1;99(1):88-94.

Correlation of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) mRNA with proviral DNA load, virus-specific CD8(+) T cells, and disease severity in HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (HAM/TSP).

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  • 1Viral Immunology Section, Neuroimmunology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


To investigate the role of viral expression in individuals infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), a real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of HTLV-1 tax messenger RNA (mRNA) using ABI Prism 7700 Sequence Detection System was developed. Using this system, the HTLV-1 tax mRNA load was compared with HTLV-1 proviral DNA load, HTLV-1 Tax protein expression, HTLV-1 Tax-specific CD8(+) T-cell frequency, and disease severity of HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). This approach was a sensitive and specific technique for the precise quantification of HTLV-1 tax mRNA. The total amount of HTLV-1 tax mRNA and mRNA expression level in HTLV-1-infected cells (mRNA/DNA ratio) were higher in HAM/TSP patients than in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers. The HTLV-1 tax mRNA load correlated with the HTLV-1 proviral DNA load ex vivo, the Tax protein expression in vitro, and the Tax-specific CD8(+) T-cell frequency ex vivo. The HTLV-1 tax mRNA load also correlated with disease severity in HAM/TSP patients. These data suggest that increased HTLV-1 expression plays an important role in the pathogenesis of HAM/TSP, and the HTLV-1 tax mRNA level could be a useful predictor of disease progression in patients with HAM/TSP.

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