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Open Access

Development of a model of HTLV-1 oral transmission in the rabbit

  • Robyn Haines1,
  • Rebeccah Urbiztondo1,
  • Rashade Haynes1,
  • Stefan Niewiesk1 and
  • Michael Lairmore2, 3Email author
Retrovirology20118(Suppl 1):A19

Published: 6 June 2011


Post ExposureMononuclear LeukocyteAntigen ProductionOral ModelInfected Rabbit

A primary route of transmission of human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1) is from mother-to-child via breast milk, but knowledge of the early immunologic events in orally acquired HTLV-1 infection is limited. Herein, we characterized normal rabbit gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) and performed studies to develop an oral model of HTLV-1 infection. Mononuclear leukocytes were immunophenotyped from key GALT inductive and effector sites using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Our data indicate that unexposed rabbits GALT have a predominant CD4+ lymphocyte population similar to humans. To establish a HTLV-1 oral model 12 week old female New Zealand White rabbits were orally or intravenously inoculated with CD3+CD4+CD25+ rabbit lymphocyte cell line immortalized with the HTLV-1 molecular clone ACH (R-49 cells) or control Jurkat T-cells orally. The rabbits were monitored for hematologic and virologic parameters prior to serial sacrifice. Collectively, 66 to 100% of HTLV-1 orally exposed rabbits became persistently infected. HTLV-1orally exposed and infected rabbits during early time points (1-4 weeks post exposure) had delayed and often less intense anti-HTLV-1 antibody response, variable leukocytosis, and a delayed p19 matrix antigen production and proviral DNA amounts in peripheral blood leukocytes compared to IV exposed rabbits. Interestingly, by 8 weeks post exposure orally exposed rabbits had established similar systemic spread of the virus compared to IV exposed rabbits. This oral model of HTLV-1 transmission in rabbits creates to opportunity to test the role of the mucosal microenvironment during the early stages of orally-acquired HTLV-1 in gut-associated lymphoid tissue.

Authors’ Affiliations

Department of Veterinary Biosciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Center for Retrovirus Research, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA


© Haines et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011

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.