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Transmission of Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 Tax to Rabbits by tax-Only-Positive Human Cells

  • Dorothea Zucker-Franklin
  • Bette A. Pancake
  • Parviz Lalezari
  • Manoochehr Khorshidi
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2000
  • Biology
  • Medicine


The human T-cell lymphrotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is causally related to adult T-cell leukemia and lymphoma and the neurodegenerative diseases tropical spastic paraparesis and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy. In the United States the prevalence of infection has been estimated to range from 0.016 to 0.1% on the basis of serologic tests for antibodies to the viral structural proteins. Blood from donors positive for antibodies to HTLV-1 or HTLV-2 is not used for transfusion. However, patients with the cutaneous T-cell lymphoma mycosis fungoides (MF) are HTLV-1 and -2 seronegative yet harbor proviral sequences identical to those that encode the HTLV-1 transactivating and transforming gene product p40tax in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and they usually have antibodies to p40tax. Moreover, a study of 250 randomly selected blood donors revealed that approximately 8% of these seronegative individuals also had HTLV-1 tax sequences and antibodies to p40tax, while they lacked sequences and antibodies related to gag, pol, or env. Thus, it seemed important to determine whether the “tax-only” state can be transmitted by transfusion. To this end, PBMCs from HTLV-1 and -2 seronegative tax-only-positive MF patients or from healthy tax-only-positive blood donors were injected into adult rabbits, an established animal model for HTLV-1 infection. The PBMCs of all injected rabbits became tax sequence positive. These observations suggest that HTLV-1 tax can be transmitted by tax-only-positive mononuclear cells.

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