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Inflammation with HTLV-1-specific CTLs occurs in the spinal cord of HTLV-1 carriers and the brain of the patients with HAM/TSP

Recently, a study by Morgan et al. identified that the white matter lesions are detectable with MRI study in HTLV-1 carriers at the same frequency as HAM/TSP patients. Little is known about the nature of the brain lesion and its relation to the spinal cord lesion. We assessed the inflammatory change including HTLV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in the brain lesion of the patient with HAM/TSP, in the spinal cord of HTLV-1 carrier immunohistochemically. Fresh frozen samples including one brain from the patient with HAM/TSP and four spinal cords from HTLV-1 carriers were for use in this study. Inflammatory cells in the sections of the brain and spinal cords were stained with anti-CD4, anti-CD8 antibodies. HTLV-1-specific CTLs were detected with either phycoerythrin (PE)-conjugated HLA-A*0201/Tax11-19 tetramer or HLA-A*2402/Tax301-309 tetramer, and followed by rabbit anti-PE antibody as the secondary antibody. The signals from the third antibody with fluorescence were captured by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). HTLV-1-specific CTLs were frequently detected in the brain lesion of the patient with HAM/TSP. The CTLs were also detected in all the spinal cords of four HTLV-1 carriers. Interestingly, inflamed lesions of HTLV-1 carrier were distributed mainly in the lower thoracic level of the spinal cords like the spinal cord of HAM/TSP. These results suggest that inflammatory changes occur simultaneously in the spinal cord and the brain of the patients with HAM/TSP, and that latent inflammatory change may occur in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers.

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Correspondence to Eiji Matsuura.

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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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Matsuura, E., Nozuma, S., Matsuzaki, T. et al. Inflammation with HTLV-1-specific CTLs occurs in the spinal cord of HTLV-1 carriers and the brain of the patients with HAM/TSP. Retrovirology 11, P7 (2014).

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  • Spinal Cord
  • Secondary Antibody
  • White Matter
  • Inflammatory Cell
  • Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy