Presence of HTLV-I proviral DNA in central nervous system of patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy

Ann Neurol. 1992 Jan;31(1):39-45. doi: 10.1002/ana.410310108.


The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method was used to determine the presence and amount of human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) proviral DNA in central nervous system (CNS) tissue obtained at autopsy from 6 patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP), 1 patient with adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and CNS infiltration of leukemic cells, and 9 control subjects with other neurological disorders. HTLV-I pX and env but not pol DNA were detected in CNS tissue from 5 of 6 patients with HAM/TSP. The ATL samples were positive for pX, env, and pol DNA by PCR. None of the control samples was consistently positive for HTLV-I by PCR, but all showed positive bands on beta-globin PCR. Quantitative PCR combined with histological studies showed no correlation between HTLV-I proviral DNA amounts and extent of perivascular mononuclear cell infiltration in the HAM/TSP CNS. Also, the amounts of pX and probably env DNA were greater in the HAM/TSP samples than in the ATL sample, although the extent of mononuclear cell infiltration was far less in the HAM/TSP samples than in the ATL sample. Therefore, in addition to infiltrating mononuclear cells, constituent cells of the CNS may harbor the HTLV-I genome, at least in the pX and env regions, in patients with HAM/TSP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Central Nervous System / microbiology*
  • Central Nervous System / pathology
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / microbiology
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / pathology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / microbiology*
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / pathology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proviruses / isolation & purification


  • DNA, Viral