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J Virol. 1988 Aug;62(8):2942-50.

Human T-cell leukemia virus type I infection of CD4+ or CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell clones results in immortalization with retention of antigen specificity.

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Division of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.


The human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) is capable of chronically infecting various types of T cells and nonlymphoid cells. The effects of chronic infection on the specific functional activities and growth requirements of mature cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) have remained poorly defined. We have, therefore, investigated the results of HTLV-I infection of both CD4+ and CD8+ human CTL clones. HTLV-I infection resulted in the establishment of functional CTL lines which propagated indefinitely in culture many months longer than the uninfected parental clone. The infected cells became independent of the need for antigen (target cell) stimulation as a requirement for proliferation and growth. Like their uninfected counterparts, however, these HTLV-I-infected clones remained strictly dependent on conditioned medium from mitogen-stimulated T lymphocytes for their growth. This growth factor requirement was not fulfilled by recombinant interleukin-2 alone. Furthermore, the infected lines remained functionally identical to their uninfected parental CTL clones in their ability to specifically recognize and lyse the appropriate target cells. Our findings indicate that the major effects of HTLV-I infection on mature CTL consist of (i) the capacity for proliferation in the absence of antigen stimulation and (ii) a prolonged or immortal survival in vitro, but they also indicate that the fine specificity and cytolytic capacity of these cells remain unaffected.

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