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Leukemia. 2009 Feb;23(2):375-82. doi: 10.1038/leu.2008.272. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

PD-1/PD-L1 expression in human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 carriers and adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma patients.

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Division of Hematology and Immunology, Center for Chronic Viral Diseases, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, Japan.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) develops after infection with human T-cell leukemia virus-1 (HTLV-1) after a long latency period. The negative regulatory programmed death-1/programmed death-1 ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) pathway has been implicated in the induction of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) exhaustion during chronic viral infection along with tumor escape from host immunity. To determine whether the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway could be involved in the establishment of persistent HTLV-1 infections and immune evasion of ATLL cells in patients, we examined PD-1/PD-L1 expression on cells from 27 asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers (ACs) and 27 ATLL patients in comparison with cells from 18 healthy donors. PD-1 expression on HTLV-1-specific CTLs from ACs and ATLL patients was dramatically elevated. In addition, PD-1 expression was significantly higher on CD8+ T cells along with cytomegalovirus (CMV)- and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific CTLs in ATLL patients compared with ACs and control individuals. Primary ATLL cells in 21.7% of ATLL patients expressed PD-L1, whereas elevated expression was not observed in cells from ACs. Finally, in functional studies, we observed that an anti-PD-L1 antagonistic antibody upregulated HTLV-1-specific CD8+T-cell response. These observations suggest that the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway plays a role in fostering persistent HTLV-1 infections, which may further ATLL development and facilitate immune evasion by ATLL cells.

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