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Blood. 2009 Oct 8;114(15):3208-15. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-02-203042. Epub 2009 Aug 7.

Severe loss of invariant NKT cells exhibiting anti-HTLV-1 activity in patients with HTLV-1-associated disorders.

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Department of Molecular Medical Science, Institute of Medical Science, St Marianna University School of Medicine, Kawasaki, Japan.


Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are unique T cells that regulate the immune response to microbes, cancers, and autoimmunity. We assessed the characteristics of iNKT cells from persons infected with human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Whereas most infected persons remain asymptomatic carriers (ACs) throughout their lives, a small proportion, usually with high equilibrium proviral loads,develop 2 diseases: HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and adult T-cell leukemia (ATL). We demonstrated that the frequency of iNKT, NK, and dendritic cells in the peripheral blood of HAM/TSP and ATL patients is decreased. We also observed an inverse correlation between the iNKT cell frequency and the HTLV-1 proviral load in the peripheral blood of infected persons. Notably, in vitro stimulation of peripheral blood cells with alpha-galactosylceramide led to an increase in the iNKT cell number and a subsequent decrease in the HTLV-1-infected T-cell number in samples from ACs but not HAM/TSP or ATL patients. Our results suggest that iNKT cells contribute to the immune defense against HTLV-1, and iNKT-cell depletion plays an important role in the pathogenesis of HAM/TSP and ATL. Therefore, iNKT cell-based immunotherapy may be an effective strategy for preventing these HTLV-1-associated disorders.

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