Human T-Lymphotropic Retroviruses and Their Role in Human Diseases
Information on a group of human retroviruses called Human T-lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) has rapidly amassed in the last few years (1). These are horizontally transmitted viruses which infect the subset of lymphocytes expressing helper function and the OKT4 marker. HTLV-I and HTLV-III are the etiologic agents of, respectively, adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) (2) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (3). Discovery of these viruses and the identification of their pathogenic roles represent the culmination of efforts in the preceeding decade directed at detection of retroviruses in humans, particularly in neoplasms of hematopoietic origin. In 1976, this laboratory identified a factor in the culture medium of mitogen-stimulated human lymphocytes which supported the long term growth of human T-cells (4). This factor, called T-cell growth factor or interleukin-2 (IL-2), was used to grow normal and neoplastic T-cells. Since normal T-cells required activation by mitogen or antigen to respond to IL-2 and T-cells from ATL patients responded directly to IL-2 without prior activation, it was possible to selectively grow neoplastic T-cells in culture and study them for the presence of retro-viruses. This led first to identification and isolation of HTLV-I from ATL patients. Subsequently, using a similar protocol, HTLV-II (5) was obtained from a patient with T-cell Hairy Cell leukemia. We later showed that HTLV-I and HTLV-II infected cells constitutively expressed high levels of IL-2 receptors.
KeywordsHairy Cell Leukemia Lymphoid Leukemia Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia Infectious Disease Ward Block Virus Replication
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