Pathogens. 2023 Mar 21;12(3):492. doi: 10.3390/pathogens12030492.
Slowly progressive spastic paraparesis with bladder dysfunction, the main clinical feature of human T-cell leukemia virus-1 (HTLV-1)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), is induced by chronic inflammation in the spinal cord, mainly the lower thoracic cord. A long-standing bystander mechanism, such as the destruction of surrounding tissues by inflammatory cytokines, etc., induced under the interaction between infiltrated HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells and HTLV-1-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, has been considered implicated for the induction of chronic inflammation. As this bystander mechanism is triggered conceivably by the transmigration of HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells to the spinal cord, heightened transmigrating activity of HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells to the spinal cord might play a crucial role as the first responder in the development of HAM/TSP. This review evaluated the functions of HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells in HAM/TSP patients as the prerequisite for the acquisition of the activity such as adhesion molecule expression changes, small GTPases activation, and expression of mediators involved in basement membrane disruption. The findings suggest that HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells in HAM/TSP patients have enough potential to facilitate transmigration into the tissues. Future HAM/TSP research should clarify the molecular mechanisms leading to the establishment of HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells as the first responder in HAM/TSP patients. In addition, a regimen with an inhibitory activity against the transmigration of HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells into the spinal cord might be recommended as one of the therapeutic strategies against HAM/TSP patients.