, Volume 94, Issue 5, pp 423-428
Date: 09 Nov 2011

The discovery of ATL: an odyssey in restrospect

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Forty years have passed since our initial description of peculiar cases of adult-onset leukemia with abnormal cells having multi-convoluted nuclei and T cell properties, frequent in the southern regions of Japan in the early 1970s. Retrospectively, the study of adult T cell leukemia (ATL) and the related virus HTLV-I was a forerunner for all of human retrovirology, in which AIDS and the related retrovirus HIV were identified a few years later in the 1980s. Using the anti-TAC monoclonal antibody generated by the late Takashi Uchiyama during his stay in T. A. Waldmann's laboratory in NIH Bethesda, a cDNA encoding IL-2Rα chain was cloned by our group in Kyoto and by Waldmann’s group in Bethesda. Abnormal IL-2Rα chain expression and the IL-2 dependency of ATL cell lines greatly contributed to the study of leukemogenesis of ATL. A new soluble factor named ADF/ATL-derived factor was also detected in ATL cell lines. After years of study, ADF proved to be a first human counterpart of thiol-related oxido-reductase thioredoxin/TRX, which opened the field of redox regulation of cell signaling involved in a variety of diseases. Close interaction among Drs. Kimishige Ishizaka, Kiyoshi Takastuki and T. A. Waldmanns before ATL and HTLV-I study was an essential base for our initiation of ATL research with Takashi Uchiyama and many other colleagues.