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Depletion of dendritic cells enhances susceptibility to cell-free infection of human T cell leukemia virus type 1 in CD11c-diphtheria toxin receptor transgenic mice

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Retrovirology201411 (Suppl 1) :P71

  • Published:


  • Cellular Immune Response
  • Leukemia Virus
  • Murine Leukemia Virus
  • Proviral Load
  • Spastic Paraparesis

HTLV-1 is associated with two immunologically distinct diseases: HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis and adult T cell leukemia. The genesis of these diseases is believed to be associated with the route (mucosa versus blood) and mode (cell-free versus cell-associated) of primary infection as well as the modulation of dendritic cell (DC) functions. To explore the role of DCs during early HTLV-1 infection in vivo, we used a chimeric HTLV-1 with a replaced envelope gene from Moloney murine leukemia virus to allow HTLV-1 to fuse with murine cells, which are generally not susceptible to infection with human retroviruses. We also used a CD11c-diphtheria toxin receptor transgenic mouse model system that permits conditional transient depletion of CD11c(+) DCs. We infected these transgenic mice with HTLV-1 using both cell-free and cell-associated infection routes in the absence and presence of DCs. The ablation of DCs led to an enhanced susceptibility to infection with cell-free but not cell-associated HTLV-1 in both CD4 and non-CD4 fractions, as measured by the proviral load. Infection with cell-free virus in the absence of DCs was also found to have increased levels of Tax mRNA in the non-CD4 fraction. Moreover, depletion of DCs significantly dampened the cellular immune response against both cell-free and cell-associated virus. These results uniquely differentiate the involvement of DCs in early cell-free versus late cell-associated infection of HTLV-1 and highlight a significant aspect of viral immunopathogenesis related to the progression of adult T cell leukemia and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis after the initial infection.

Authors’ Affiliations

Drexel Institute for Biotechnology and Virology Research, and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Doylestown, PA, USA


© Rahman et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

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.