Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) and human T-lymphotrophic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) are related retroviruses associated with persistent and lifelong infections and a low incidence of lymphomas within their hosts. Both viruses can be spread through contact with bodily fluids containing infected cells, most often from mother to offspring through breast milk. Each of these complex retroviruses contains typical gag, pol, and env genes but also unique, nonstructural proteins encoded from the pX region. These nonstructural genes encode the Tax and Rex regulatory proteins, as well as novel proteins essential for viral spread in vivo. Improvements in the molecular tools to test these viral determinants in cellular and animal models have provided new insights into the pathogenesis of each virus. Comparisons of BLV and HTLV-1 provide insights into mechanisms of spread and tumor formation, as well as potential approaches to therapeutic intervention against the infections.
Keywords: HTLV-1; bovine leukemia virus; pathogenesis; retrovirus; transmission.