Human T-lymphotrophic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) belong to the Deltaretrovirus genus. HTLV-1 is the etiologic agent of the highly aggressive and currently incurable cancer adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and a neurological disease HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). BLV causes neoplastic proliferation of B cells in cattle: enzootic bovine leucosis (EBL). Despite the severity of these conditions, infection by HTLV-1 and BLV appear in most cases clinically asymptomatic. These viruses can undergo latency in their hosts. The silencing of proviral gene expression and maintenance of latency are central for the establishment of persistent infection, as well as for pathogenesis in vivo. In this review, we will present the mechanisms that control proviral activation and retroviral latency in deltaretroviruses, in comparison with other exogenous retroviruses. The 5' long terminal repeats (5'-LTRs) play a main role in controlling viral gene expression. While the regulation of transcription initiation is a major mechanism of silencing, we discuss topics that include (i) the epigenetic control of the provirus, (ii) the cis-elements present in the LTR, (iii) enhancers with cell-type specific regulatory functions, (iv) the role of virally-encoded transactivator proteins, (v) the role of repressors in transcription and silencing, (vi) the effect of hormonal signaling, (vii) implications of LTR variability on transcription and latency, and (viii) the regulatory role of non-coding RNAs. Finally, we discuss how a better understanding of these mechanisms may allow for the development of more effective treatments against Deltaretroviruses.
Keywords: Bovine leukemia virus (BLV); Deltaretrovirus; Human T-lymphotrophic virus type 1 (HTLV-1); Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1); Retrovirus; latency; long terminal repeat (LTR); transcription; viral gene regulation.