The retrovirus human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) causes adult T-cell leukemia (ATL), which remains with no cure. This study evaluates the effects of l-lysine on proliferation and induction of apoptosis using non-cytotoxic concentrations of the test compound against HTLV-1 positive and negative malignant cell lines. The anti-proliferative effect of lysine was established and confirmed by studying the effects of the test compound on the expression of TGF mRNA expression by RT-PCR. To investigate the effect of l-lysine on the induction of apoptosis, DNA flow cytometry analyses was done and the results verified by cell death ELISA. The results indicated that a significant increase in the preG(1) phase and a decrease in the S phase of the cell cycle in all of the ATL cells tested. l-Lysine up-regulated p53, p21, and Bax protein levels and a down-regulation of Bcl-2alpha in all the cell lines tested. l-Lysine was found to exert its effect through the NF-kappaB pathway by inhibiting the p65 subunit specifically. Also l-lysine caused a decrease in the levels MMP-2 and MMP-9 as well as their enzymatic activity.