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Retrovirology highlights a quarter century of HTLV-I research
© Jeang; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 23 February 2005
Accepted: 02 March 2005
Published: 02 March 2005
In 1977, Takatsuki and co-workers described in Japan a human malignant disease termed adult T-cell leukemia (ATL). Three years later, in 1980, Gallo and colleagues reported the identification of the first human retrovirus, human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I), in a patient with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This month, Retrovirology commemorates these two land mark findings by publishing separate personal recollections by Takatsuki and Gallo respectively on the discovery of ATL and HTLV.
Retrovirology as a medical study first emerged in the early 1900s. In 1908, Ellermann and Bang reported on the transmissibility of avian leucosis by cell-free filtrates, suggesting the involvement of a virus . Shortly afterward, in 1910, Rous demonstrated that chicken sarcomas were infectious and when inoculated into healthy birds induced tumors . Today, a plethora of oncogenic animal retroviruses including bovine leukemia virus, feline leukemia virus, gibbon ape leukemia virus, Jaagsiektse sheep retrovirus, murine leukemia virus, mouse mammary tumor virus, reticuloendotheliosis virus, simian T-cell lymphotropic virus, and Walleye dermal sarcoma virus has been described.
Although not yet fully understood, HTLV-I is believed to transform human T-cells neither through the acquisition of a c-onc nor by cis-insertion effects on the cellular genome. Pioneering molecular biology studies by Mitsuaki Yoshida and colleagues led to the delineation of the HTLV-I transforming gene, Tax . Tax has no cellular homologue; and it works in trans to disrupt cellular checkpoints and destabilize genome integrity  leading to transformation (Fig. 1D). A more extensive discussion of the molecular biology of HTLV-I and its transforming function will be in an upcoming comprehensive review by Masao Matsuoka to be published in Retrovirology.
I thank Anthony Elmo for help with preparation of manuscript.
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