Infection and gene expression by the human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) in vivo have been thought to be confined to CD4(+) T lymphocytes. We show here that, in natural HTLV-I infection, a significant proportion of CD8(+) T lymphocytes are infected by HTLV-I. Interestingly, HTLV-I-specific but not Epstein-Barr virus-specific CD8(+) T lymphocytes were shown to be infected. Furthermore, HTLV-I protein expression in naturally infected CD8(+) T lymphocytes renders them susceptible to fratricide mediated by autologous HTLV-I-specific CD8(+) T lymphocytes. Fratricide among virus-specific CTLs could impair the immune control of HTLV-I and possibly other lymphotropic viruses.
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