Although the humoral response to human T lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-I) has been well characterized in patients with HTLV-I-associated neurologic disease (HAM/TSP), little is known about a functional HTLV-I-specific human T cell response, such as CTL, in these patients. To define both the phenotype of the responding CTL and the fine specificity of this response, long term T cell lines were generated from two HAM/TSP patients who were from two different countries. Patient's peripheral blood lymphocytes were repeatedly stimulated in vitro with an HTLV-I expressing autologous T cell line. The resultant long term T cell culture was shown to be CD4+ and cytotoxic for targets expressing HTLV-I Ag. Using a panel of synthetic peptides that span hydrophilic regions of the HTLV-I gp46 envelope glycoprotein, the CTL lines generated from both patients were shown to recognize the same region of the HTLV-I envelope between amino acids 196-209 as defined by the synthetic peptide sp4a1. Interestingly, this sequence overlaps a region of HTLV-I envelope that had also been shown to elicit a strong B cell response in HAM/TSP patients (amino acids 190-203). One CTL line recognized this HTLV-I epitope in the context of HLA DQ5 whereas the other CTL line was restricted by HLA DRw16. The generation of two independent CTL lines from two HAM/TSP patients from different geographic areas that recognize the same region of the HTLV-I envelope glycoprotein highlights the immunogenic nature of this envelope region.

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