The generic name for a family of human T-lymphotropic retroviruses is HTLV. Two of the three members in this family have been linked etiologically to human diseases: HTLV-I with adult T-cell leukemia and HTLV-III with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In addition to their T-cell tropism and a number of other common biological and biochemical problems, the most unique common features of these viruses from a molecular biological point of view are the presence of the x-lor gene towards the 3' end of the genome and the phenomenon of a virus-induced trans-acting factor in activation of transcription initiated in the viral long terminal repeat. These features may not only be key in understanding the mechanism of transformation of cell killing by these viruses, but they also provide a basis for new classification of retroviruses. In spite of these similarities among HTLV-I, -II, -III, and bovine leukemia virus, the genome of HTLV-III is only distantly related to these other viruses. Instead, it shows greater homology to members of the Lentivirus family. Therefore, all these viruses may have a common progenitor. Two other salient features arose from the analyses of HTLV-III and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. (a) HTLV-III frequently infects the brain of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients who suffer from central nervous system disorders. This not only identifies HTLV-III as the direct candidate in these central nervous system disorders but also poses the problem of crossing the blood-brain barrier in therapy strategies to eradicate the virus. (b) Different HTLV-III isolates comprise a spectrum of related viruses, with the degree of divergence varying from virtual identity to 10-15% difference. The most divergent region resides in the envelope gene. Whether this finding has implications in the development of an effective vaccine for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4539s-4544s
JournalCancer research
Issue number9 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Dec 1 1985


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