Reporter Systems to Study HTLV-1 Transmission

  • Christine Gross
  • Andrea K. Thoma-KressEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1582)


The retrovirus Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) preferentially infects CD4+ T-cells via cell-to-cell transmission, while cell-free infection of T-cells is inefficient. Substantial insights into the different routes of transmission have largely been obtained by imaging techniques or by flow cytometry. Recently, strategies to quantify infection events with HTLV-1 improved. In this chapter, we present two different methods to quantitate virus transmission. Both methods are based on measuring gene activity of luciferase with a cost-saving in-house luciferase assay. First, we established a reporter Jurkat T-cell line carrying a luciferase gene under the control of the HTLV-1 core promoter U3R. Upon co-culture with chronically HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines, reporter cells are infected, and upon expression of the viral transactivator Tax, the viral promoter is activated resulting in enhanced luciferase activity. However, this assay as presented here does not exclude cell fusion as the mechanism allowing intracellular Tax-dependent activation of luciferase gene expression. Therefore, we describe a second method, the single-cycle replication-dependent reporter system developed by Mazurov et al. (PLoS Pathog 6:e1000788, 2010) that allows quantitation of HTLV-1 infection in co-cultured cells. Taken together, both methods facilitate quantitation of HTLV-1 transmission and will help to unravel pathways required for cell-to-cell transmission on a quantitative basis.

Key words

HTLV-1 Tax Transmission U3R Single-cycle replication-dependent reporter vector Co-culture Cell-to-cell transmission 



This work was supported by the DFG (SFB 796, C6).

The authors are grateful to Gisela Heidecker-Fanning from the laboratory of the late David Derse (HIV Drug Resistance Program, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, Frederick, Maryland, United States of America) for providing the single-cycle replication-dependent reporter system.

The authors disclaim all liability for direct or consequential damages resulting from the use of the methods described in this chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Clinical and Molecular VirologyFriedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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