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Molecular biology and pathogenesis of the human T-cell leukaemia/lymphotropic virus Type-1 (HTLV-1)


Dr Genoveffa Franchini, National Cancer Institute, Basic Research Laboratory, 41 Library Drive, Building 41, Room D804, MSC 5055, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA. Telephone: 301 496 2386; Fax: 301 402 0055; E-mail: veffa@


Retroviruses are associated with a variety of diseases, including immunological and neurological disorders, and various forms of cancer. In humans, the Human T-cell Leukaemia/Lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), which belongs to the Oncovirus family, is the aetiological agent of two diverse diseases: Adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATLL) (Poiesz et al. 1980; Hinuma et al. 1981; Yoshida et al. 1982), as well as the neurological disorder tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM) (Gessain et al. 1985; Rodgers-Johnson et al. 1985; Osame et al. 1986). HTLV-1 is the only human retrovirus known to be the aetiological agent of cancer.A genetically related virus, HTLV-2, has been identified and isolated (Kalyanaraman et al. 1982). However, there has been no demonstration of a definitive aetiological role for HTLV-2 in human disease to date. Simian T-cell lymphotropic viruses types 1 and 2 (STLV-1 and -2) and bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) have also been classified in same group, Oncoviridae, based upon their similarities in genetic sequence and structure to HTLV-1 and -2 (Burny et al. 1988; Dekaban et al. 1995; Slattery et al. 1999). This article will focus on HTLV-1, reviewing its discovery, molecular biology, and its role in disease pathogenesis.