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Virology. 1992 Jun;188(2):628-36.

Activated, HTLV-1-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes are found in healthy seropositives as well as in patients with tropical spastic paraparesis.

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Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, United Kingdom.


In human T cell lymphoma/leukemia virus (HTLV-1)-infected people with tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP), there are activated HTLV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in the circulation and lymphocytic infiltrates in spinal cord lesions that are rich in CD8+ T cells. These observations suggest a role for virus-specific CTL in the pathogenesis of TSP. We have examined the anti-HTLV-1 cytotoxic activity of freshly isolated CD8+ T cells from peripheral blood lymphocytes of eight subjects seropositive for HTLV-1. Four of five subjects with TSP had circulating activated anti-Tax CTL. However, two of three seropositive subjects without TSP also had activated anti-Tax CTL. These observations show that such activated CTL are not confined to patients with TSP and raise some uncertainty about their significance in the pathogenesis of the disease. In cultures of CD8+ T cells from two TSP subjects, we detected CTL with other HTLV-1 specificities, without exogenous antigenic stimulation. A CTL epitope in the middle region of Tax and one in the C terminus of Pol have been mapped at the peptide level and the HLA Class 1 molecules restricting their recognition have been defined.

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