Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Sep 30;24(19):14807. doi: 10.3390/ijms241914807.
The human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the only known human oncogenic retrovirus. HTLV-1 can cause a type of cancer called adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL). The virus is transmitted through the body fluids of infected individuals, primarily breast milk, blood, and semen. At least 5-10 million people in the world are infected with HTLV-1. In addition to ATL, HTLV-1 infection can also cause HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM/TSP). ATL is characterized by a low viral expression and poor prognosis. The oncogenic mechanism triggered by HTLV-1 is extremely complex and the molecular pathways are not fully understood. However, viral regulatory proteins Tax and HTLV-1 bZIP factor (HBZ) have been shown to play key roles in the transformation of HTLV-1-infected T cells. Moreover, several studies have shown that the final fate of HTLV-1-infected transformed Tcell clones is the result of a complex interplay of HTLV-1 oncogenic protein expression with cellular transcription factors that subvert the cell cycle and disrupt regulated cell death, thereby exerting their transforming effects. This review provides updated information on the mechanisms underlying the transforming action of HTLV-1 and highlights potential therapeutic targets to combat ATL.