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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 8;104(19):8035-40. Epub 2007 May 1.

In vivo T lymphocyte dynamics in humans and the impact of human T-lymphotropic virus 1 infection.

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Department of Immunology, Imperial College, London W2 1PG, United Kingdom.


Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a persistent CD4+ T-lymphotropic retrovirus. Most HTLV-1-infected individuals remain asymptomatic, but a proportion develop adult T cell leukemia or inflammatory disease. It is not fully understood how HTLV-1 persists despite a strong immune response or what determines the risk of HTLV-1-associated diseases. Until recently, it has been difficult to quantify lymphocyte kinetics in humans in vivo. Here, we used deuterated glucose labeling to quantify in vivo lymphocyte dynamics in HTLV-1-infected individuals. We then used these results to address four questions. (i) What is the impact of HTLV-1 infection on lymphocyte dynamics? (ii) How does HTLV-1 persist? (iii) What is the extent of HTLV-1 expression in vivo? (iv) What features of lymphocyte kinetics are associated with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis? We found that CD4+CD45RO+ and CD8+CD45RO+ T lymphocyte proliferation was elevated in HTLV-1-infected subjects compared with controls, with an extra 10(12) lymphocytes produced per year in an HTLV-1-infected subject. The in vivo proliferation rate of CD4+CD45RO+ cells also correlated with ex vivo viral expression. Finally, the inflammatory disease HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis was associated with significantly increased CD4+CD45RO+ cell proliferation. We suggest that there is persistent viral gene expression in vivo, which is necessary for the maintenance of the proviral load and determines HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis risk.

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