Detection of human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) tax RNA in the central nervous system of HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis patients by in situ hybridization

Ann Neurol. 1995 Feb;37(2):167-75. doi: 10.1002/ana.410370206.


Autopsy specimens from 3 patients with human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-I)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) were examined for the presence of HTLV-I in the central nervous system (CNS). In situ hybridization using an HTLV-I tax RNA probe detected cells containing HTLV-I RNA in spinal cord and cerebellar sections. HTLV-I infected cells were located within the white matter and, in particular, within the anterior and lateral funiculi of the spinal cord. Consistent with previously described HAM/TSP pathology, there were perivascular infiltrates in these CNS specimens. Significantly, HTLV-I RNA was not localized to these infiltrates but was detected deeper within the neural tissue. Furthermore, phenotypic analysis demonstrated that at least some of the infected cells were astrocytes. While previous polymerase chain reaction studies have demonstrated the presence of proviral HTLV-I in CNS specimens, here we provide evidence for the in situ expression of HTLV-I RNA in the CNS of HAM/TSP patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebellum / virology*
  • Female
  • Gene Products, tax / analysis*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Spinal Cord / virology*


  • Gene Products, tax
  • RNA, Viral