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Different routes of entry of HTLV-1 during infection of primary dendritic cells and CD4+ T cells

Although HTLV-1 is primarily found in T cells in infected individuals, ex vivo cultures of T cells are not readily infected by cell-free HTLV-1. In contrast, cell-free HTLV-1 efficiently infects cultures of primary dendritic cells. Little is known about the productive route of infection of dendritic cells, or the stage at which infection of T cells is blocked. Comparison of primary CD4+ T cells and monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDC) exposed to HTLV-1 revealed that, for both cell types, HTLV-1 virions bound to and entered the cells. Entry was dependent on interactions with HSPGs and neuropilin-1, molecules known to be involved in HTLV-1 entry. The observation that cell-free HTLV-1 can enter both types of cells but only efficiently infect DCs suggests that the virus can enter cells by both productive and non-productive pathways. Dendritic cells use a type of constitutive, actin-dependent endocytosis called macropinocytosis to capture antigens, and several viruses use this route to infect host cells. In T cells, macropinocytosis is not constitutive, but can be induced. Studies with inhibitors revealed that HTLV-1 infection of MDDC is markedly decreased when the cells are treated with an actin-depolymerizing agent (cytochalasin D) or a specific inhibitor of macropinocytosis (EIPA). Strikingly, treatment of primary CD4+ T cells with a peptide that induces macropinocytosis dramatically increases infection following exposure to cell-free HTLV-1. These results suggest that HTLV-1 can enter cells by both productive and non-productive pathways, and that altering the route of entry can alter the susceptibility of a given cell type to HTLV-1 infection.

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Correspondence to Kathryn S Jones.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Jones, K.S., Petrow-Sadowski, C., Bertolette, D.C. et al. Different routes of entry of HTLV-1 during infection of primary dendritic cells and CD4+ T cells. Retrovirology 11 (Suppl 1), O77 (2014).

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