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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular epidemiology of 58 new African human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) strains: identification of a new and distinct HTLV-1 molecular subtype in Central Africa and in Pygmies.

To gain new insights on the origin, evolution, and modes of dissemination of human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-1), we performed a molecular analysis of 58 new African HTLV-1 strains (18 from West Africa, 36 from Central Africa, and 4 from South Africa) originating from 13 countries. Of particular interest were eight strains from Pygmies of remote areas of Cameroon and the Central African Republic (CAR), considered to be the oldest inhabitants of these regions. Eight long-term activated T-cell lines producing HTLV-1 gag and env antigens were established from peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures of HTLV-1 seropositive individuals, including three from Pygmies. A fragment of the env gene encompassing most of the gp21 transmembrane region was sequenced for the 58 new strains, while the complete long terminal repeat (LTR) region was sequenced for 9 strains, including 4 from Pygmies. Comparative sequence analyses and phylogenetic studies performed on both the env and LTR regions by the neighbor-joining and DNA parsimony methods demonstrated that all 22 strains from West and South Africa belong to the widespread cosmopolitan subtype (also called HTLV-1 subtype A). Within or alongside the previously described Zairian cluster (HTLV-1 subtype B), we discovered a number of new HTLV-1 variants forming different subgroups corresponding mainly to the geographical origins of the infected persons, Cameroon, Gabon, and Zaire. Six of the eight Pygmy strains clustered together within this Central African subtype, suggesting a common origin. Furthermore, three new strains (two originating from Pygmies from Cameroon and the CAR, respectively, and one from a Gabonese individual) were particularly divergent and formed a distinct new phylogenetic cluster, characterized by specific mutations and occupying in most analyses a unique phylogenetic position between the large Central African genotype (HTLV-1 subtype B) and the Melanesian subtype (HTLV-1 subtype C). We have tentatively named this new HTLV-1 genotype HTLV-1 subtype D. While the HTLV-1 subtype D strains were not closely related to any known African strain of simian T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (STLV-1), other Pygmy strains and some of the new Cameroonian and Gabonese HTLV-1 strains were very similar (>98% nucleotide identity) to chimpanzee STLV-1 strains, reinforcing the hypothesis of interspecies transmission between humans and monkeys in Central Africa.[1]


  1. Molecular epidemiology of 58 new African human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) strains: identification of a new and distinct HTLV-1 molecular subtype in Central Africa and in Pygmies. Mahieux, R., Ibrahim, F., Mauclere, P., Herve, V., Michel, P., Tekaia, F., Chappey, C., Garin, B., Van Der Ryst, E., Guillemain, B., Ledru, E., Delaporte, E., de The, G., Gessain, A. J. Virol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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