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Nat Med. 2008 Apr;14(4):429-36. doi: 10.1038/nm1745. Epub 2008 Mar 23.

Cell-free HTLV-1 infects dendritic cells leading to transmission and transformation of CD4(+) T cells.

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  • 1Basic Research Program, Science Applications International Corporation-Frederick, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


Cell-free human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) virions are poorly infectious in vitro for their primary target cells, CD4(+) T cells. Here, we show that HTLV-1 can efficiently infect myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (DCs). Moreover, DCs exposed to HTLV-1, both before and after being productively infected, can rapidly, efficiently and reproducibly transfer virus to autologous primary CD4(+) T cells. This DC-mediated transfer of HTLV-1 involves heparan sulfate proteoglycans and neuropilin-1 and results in long-term productive infection and interleukin-2-independent transformation of the CD4(+) T cells. These studies, along with observations of HTLV-1-infected DCs in the peripheral blood of infected individuals, indicate that DCs have a central role in HTLV-1 transmission, dissemination and persistence in vivo. In addition to altering the current paradigm concerning how HTLV-1 transmission occurs, these studies suggest that impairment of DC function after HTLV-1 infection plays a part in pathogenesis.

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