Provirus Mutations of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus 1 and 2 (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) in HIV-1-Coinfected Individuals

mSphere. 2020 Sep 30;5(5):e00923-20. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00923-20.


Provirus mutations of human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1), mostly the lack of the 5' long terminal repeat (LTR) genomic region, have been described and associated with severe adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL), non-sense point mutations with low proviral load, and Western blotting indeterminate results. Until now, no information concerning provirus mutations of HTLV-2 and its consequences, as well as those of HTLV-1/2 in HIV-coinfected individuals, had been described. Therefore, we searched for these mutations in provirus samples of 44 HIV/HTLV-1- and 25 HIV/HTLV-2-coinfected individuals. Using protocols well established for amplification and sequencing of segments of the LTR, env, and tax regions, we searched for defective type 1 particles that retain LTRs and lack internal sequences and type 2 particles that lack the 5'LTR region. In addition, using as references the prototypes ATK (HTLV-1) and Mo (HTLV-2), we searched for point mutations in the LTR and synonyms and nonsynonymous mutations and non-sense mutations in env and tax regions. Defective HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 provirus type 1 or 2 was detected in 31.8% of HIV/HTLV-1- and 32.0% of HIV/HTLV-2-coinfected individuals. Synonymous and nonsynonymous mutations were identified mostly in HTLV-2 and associated with lower levels of specific antibodies. No non-sense mutations that resulted in premature termination of Env and Tax proteins were detected. On the contrary, mutation in the stop codon of Tax2a produced a long protein characteristic of the HTLV-2c subtype. The clinical significance of these mutations in coinfected individuals remains to be defined, but they confirmed the lower sensitivity of serological and molecular diagnostic tests in HIV/HTLV-1/2 coinfections.IMPORTANCE HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are endemic to Brazil, and they have different effects in HIV/AIDS disease progression. HIV/HTLV-1 has been described as accelerating the progression to AIDS and death, while HIV/HTLV-2 slows the progression to AIDS. Provirus mutations of HTLV-1 were implicated in severe leukemia development and in problems in the diagnosis of HTLV-1; in contrast, provirus mutations of HTLV-2 had not been confirmed and associated with problems in HTLV-2 diagnosis or disease outcome. Nevertheless, data obtained here allowed us to recognize and understand the false-negative results in serologic and molecular tests applied for HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 diagnosis. Defective proviruses, as well as synonymous and nonsynonymous mutations, were associated with the diagnosis deficiencies. Additionally, since HIV-1 and HTLV-1 infect the same cells (CD4 positive), the production of HIV-1 pseudotypes with HTLV-1 envelope glycoprotein during HIV/HTLV-1 coinfection cannot be excluded. Defective provirus of HTLV-2 and Tax2c is speculated to influence progression to AIDS.

Keywords: HIV; HTLV-1; HTLV-2; coinfection; diagnostic impairment; human T-lymphotropic virus 1; human T-lymphotropic virus 2; provirus mutation; sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't