HTLV-1 infection is associated with several inflammatory disorders, including the neurodegenerative condition HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It is unclear why a minority of infected subjects develop HAM/TSP. The cellular immune response has been implicated in the development of inflammatory alterations in these patients; however the pathogenic mechanisms for disease progression remain unclear. Furthermore, HTLV-1-infected individuals have an increase incidence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection, suggesting that immunological defect are associated with HTLV-1 infection. Evidence suggests an important role for Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in the early control of Mtb infection. Chronic viral infections like HIV and HCV have been associated with decreased frequency and functionality of MAIT cells. We hypothesized that HTLV-1 infection is associated with similar perturbations in MAIT cells. We investigated MAIT cell frequency, phenotype, and function by flow cytometry in a cohort of 10 asymptomatic and 10 HAM/TSP HTLV-1 infected patients. We found that MAIT cells from HTLV-1-infected subjects were reduced and showed high co-expression of the activation markers CD38 and HLA-DR but normal levels of CCR6 and CD127. MAIT cells had a lower expression of the transcription factor PLZF in HAM/TSP patients. Unlike Tax-specific CD8+T cells, which are hyperfunctional, MAIT cells from HTLV-1-infected subjects had a poor IFNγ response following antigen stimulation. MAIT cell perturbations in HTLV-1 infection were not associated with HTLV-1 proviral load and MAIT cells were not infected by HTLV-1 in vivo. Rather, MAIT cells loss was associated with immune activation. Overall, our results do not support a role for MAIT cells in HAM/TSP pathogenesis but reduced numbers of MAIT cells, together with their poor functionality, could contribute to the increased susceptibility of HTLV-1-infected individuals to other infectious agents.
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Paquin-Proulx, D., Greenspun, B., Costa, E., Segurado, A., Kallas, E., Nixon, D., & Leal, F. (2017). MAIT Cells are Reduced in Frequency and Functionally Impaired in Human T Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 Infection: Potential Clinical Implications.. PLoS One, 12 (4). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175345