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Blood. 2000 Feb 15;95(4):1386-92.

Abundant tax protein expression in CD4+ T cells infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) is prevented by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

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Department of Immunology and Genito-Urinary Medicine and Communicable Diseases, Imperial College School of Medicine, St Mary's Campus, London, United Kingdom.


The role of the cellular immune response in human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) infection is not fully understood. A persistently activated cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response to HTLV-I is found in the majority of infected individuals. However, it remains unclear whether this CTL response is protective or causes tissue damage. In addition, several observations paradoxically suggest that HTLV-I is transcriptionally silent in most infected cells and, therefore, not detectable by virus-specific CTLs. With the use of a new flow cytometric procedure, we show here that a high proportion of naturally infected CD4+ peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) (between 10% and 80%) are capable of expressing Tax, the immunodominant target antigen recognized by virus-specific CTLs. Furthermore, we provide direct evidence that autologous CD8+ T cells rapidly kill CD4+ cells naturally infected with HTLV-I and expressing Tax in vitro by a perforin-dependent mechanism. Consistent with these observations, we observed a significant negative correlation between the frequency of Tax(11-19)-specific CD8+ T cells and the percentage of CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood of patients infected with HTLV-I. Those results are in accordance with the view that virus-specific CTLs participate in a highly efficient immune surveillance mechanism that persistently destroys Tax-expressing HTLV-I-infected CD4+ T cells in vivo. (Blood. 2000;95:1386-1392).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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