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Front Microbiol. 2018 Mar 19;9:449. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00449. eCollection 2018.

HTLV-1: Regulating the Balance Between Proviral Latency and Reactivation.

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Section of Virology, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.


HTLV-1 plus-strand transcription begins with the production of doubly-spliced tax/rex transcripts, the levels of which are usually undetectable in freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from HTLV-1-infected individuals. However, the presence of a sustained chronically active cytotoxic T-cell response to HTLV-1 antigens in virtually all HTLV-1-infected individuals, regardless of their proviral load, argues against complete latency of the virus in vivo. There is an immediate burst of plus-strand transcription when blood from infected individuals is cultured ex vivo. How is the HTLV-1 plus strand silenced in PBMCs? Is it silenced in other anatomical compartments within the host? What reactivates the latent provirus in fresh PBMCs? While plus-strand transcription of the provirus appears to be intermittent, the minus-strand hbz transcripts are present in a majority of cells, albeit at low levels. What regulates the difference between the 5'- and 3'-LTR promoter activities and thereby the tax-hbz interplay? Finally, T lymphocytes are a migratory population of cells that encounter variable environments in different compartments of the body. Could these micro-environment changes influence the reactivation kinetics of the provirus? In this review we discuss the questions raised above, focusing on the early events leading to HTLV-1 reactivation from latency, and suggest future research directions.


HTLV-1; epigenetic regulation; glucose; hypoxia; latency; metabolism; transcription; virus

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