Prior studies have linked retroviruses to various arthropathies and autoimmune diseases. Sjögren's syndrome (SS), a systemic autoimmune disease, is characterized by aggressive infiltration of lymphocytes into the salivary and lacrimal glands, resulting in destruction of the glands and dry mouth and eyes (sicca syndrome). The infiltrating lymphocytes in SS may become overtly malignant, and thus, the incidence of lymphoma is greatly increased in SS patients. A human intracisternal A-type retroviral particle type I (HIAP-I) has been isolated from persons with SS. HIAP-I shares a limited number of antigenic epitopes with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but is distinguishable from HIV by morphological, physical, and biochemical criteria. A substantial majority of patients with SS or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have serum antibodies to the proteins of this human retrovirus. Fewer than 3% of the normal blood donor population have antibodies to any HIAP-associated proteins. A second type of a human intracisternal A-type retrovirus, HIAP-II, was detected in a subset of patients with idiopathic CD4 lymphocytopenia (ICL), an AIDS-like immunodeficiency disease. Most HIAP-II positive ICL patients were also antinuclear antibody positive. Reviewed here are additional studies from several laboratories suggesting that HIAP or related viruses may be involved in SLE and other autoimmune conditions. Additionally, results of comprehensive surveys of autoimmune patients to determine seroreactivity to HIAP, and other human retroviruses, including HIV and human T-lymphotropic virus type I, are reported.
2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.