Cancer Sci. 2023 Nov 10. doi: 10.1111/cas.15997. Online ahead of print.
Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) establishes chronic infection in humans and induces a T-cell malignancy called adult T-cell leukemia-lymphoma (ATL) and several inflammatory diseases such as HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Persistent HTLV-1 infection is established under the pressure of host immunity, and therefore the immune response against HTLV-1 is thought to reflect the status of the disease it causes. Indeed, it is known that cellular immunity against viral antigens is suppressed in ATL patients compared to HAM/TSP patients. In this study, we show that profiling the humoral immunity to several HTLV-1 antigens, such as Gag, Env, and Tax, and measuring proviral load are useful tools for classifying disease status and predicting disease development. Using targeted sequencing, we found that several carriers whom this profiling method predicted to be at high risk for developing ATL indeed harbored driver mutations of ATL. The clonality of HTLV-1-infected cells in those carriers was still polyclonal; it is consistent with an early stage of leukemogenesis. Furthermore, this study revealed significance of anti-Gag proteins to predict high risk group in HTLV-1 carriers. Consistent with this finding, anti-Gag cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) were increased in patients who received hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and achieved remission state, indicating the significance of anti-Gag CTLs for disease control. Our findings suggest that our strategy that combines anti-HTLV-1 antibodies and proviral load may be useful for prediction of the development of HTLV-1-associated diseases.