Microbiol Spectr. 2023 Jun 27:e0151823. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.01518-23. Online ahead of print.
Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) induces chronic asymptomatic latent infection with a substantial proviral load but without significant viral replication in vivo. Cumulative studies have indicated involvement of CD8-positive (CD8+) cells, including virus-specific CD8+ T cells in the control of HTLV-1 replication. However, whether HTLV-1 expression from latently infected cells in vivo occurs in the absence of CD8+ cells remains unclear. Here, we examined the impact of CD8+ cell depletion by monoclonal anti-CD8 antibody administration on proviral load in HTLV-1-infected cynomolgus macaques. Five cynomolgus macaques were infected with HTLV-1 by inoculation with HTLV-1-producing cells. Administration of monoclonal anti-CD8 antibody in the chronic phase resulted in complete depletion of peripheral CD8+ T cells for approximately 2 months. All five macaques showed an increase in proviral load following CD8+ cell depletion, which peaked just before the reappearance of peripheral CD8+ T cells. Tax-specific CD8+ T-cell responses were detected in these recovered CD8+ T cells. Importantly, anti-HTLV-1 antibodies also increased after CD8+ cell depletion, indicating HTLV-1 antigen expression. These results provide evidence indicating that HTLV-1 can proliferate from the latent phase in the absence of CD8+ cells and suggest that CD8+ cells are responsible for the control of HTLV-1 replication. IMPORTANCE HTLV-1 can cause serious diseases such as adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) in humans after chronic asymptomatic latent infection with substantial proviral load. Proviruses are detectable in peripheral lymphocytes in HTLV-1 carriers, and the association of a higher proviral load with a higher risk of disease progression has been observed. However, neither substantial viral structural protein expression nor viral replication was detectable in vivo. Cumulative studies have indicated involvement of CD8+ cells, including virus-specific CD8+ T cells in the control of HTLV-1 replication. In the present study, we showed that CD8+ cell depletion by monoclonal anti-CD8 antibody administration results in HTLV-1 expression and an increase in proviral load in HTLV-1-infected cynomolgus macaques. Our results indicate that HTLV-1 can proliferate in the absence of CD8+ cells, suggesting that CD8+ cells are responsible for the control of HTLV-1 replication. This study provides insights into the mechanism of virus-host immune interaction in latent HTLV-1 infection.