HTLV-associated diseases: human retroviral infection and cutaneous T-cell lymphomas

Immunol Invest. 1997 Jan-Feb;26(1-2):231-42. doi: 10.3109/08820139709048929.


An array of neurologic, oncologic, and autoimmune disorders are associated with infection with the human pathogenic retroviruses human T-cell leukemia virus types I and II (HTLV-I, II), as well as the human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV). The cutaneous T-cell lymphomas, mycosis fungoides (MF) and its hematogenous variant Sezary Syndrome (SS), share similar clinical and pathological features to HTLV-I-associated adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and speculation of a retroviral link to MF and SS, especially in areas non-endemic for ATL, has lead to an intensified search for HTLV- and HIV-like agents in these diseases. To further explore a potential role for human retroviruses in MF and SS, skin biopsy-derived or peripheral blood mononuclear cell-derived DNA from 17 patients (MF, n = 7; erythrodermic MF (EMF), n = 5; SS, n = 5) from the North Eastern United States were screened using gene amplification by PCR and a liquid hybridization detection assay. Previously published primers and probes for HTLV-I (LTR, gag, pol, env, and pX), and our own primers and probes for HTLV-I (gag, pol, and env), HTLV-II (pol and env) and HIV-I (gag and pol) were employed. Serum antibodies to HTLV-I were negative in all but one EMF patient. The single HTLV-I seropositive patient carrying a diagnosis of EMF generated positive amplified signals for all of the eight HTLV-I regions tested. Ultimately, this individual evolved to exhibit clinical manifestations indistinguishable from ATL. The other 16 patients were negative for all 12 HTLV and HIV retroviral regions. Our findings suggest that none of the known prototypic human retroviruses are associated with seronegative MF and SS. The uniformly positive results for HTLV-I in the seropositive patient suggests that this patient initially presented with a smoldering form of ATL and illustrates the difficulty that sometimes may be encountered in the differential diagnosis of MF, SS, and ATL based solely on clinical and histopathological criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deltaretrovirus Infections / complications*
  • Deltaretrovirus Infections / genetics
  • Deltaretrovirus Infections / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mycosis Fungoides / genetics
  • Mycosis Fungoides / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proviruses / genetics
  • Retroviridae Infections / etiology*
  • Retroviridae Infections / genetics
  • Sezary Syndrome / genetics
  • Sezary Syndrome / virology*