Open Access Research

Molecular characterization of HTLV-1 gp46 glycoprotein from health carriers and HAM/TSP infected individuals

Aline C A Mota-Miranda123, Fernanda K Barreto1, Maria F C Amarante5, Everton Batista4, Joana P Monteiro-Cunha23, Lourdes Farre4, Bernardo Galvão-Castro12 and Luiz C J Alcantara1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Pesquisa Gonçalo Moniz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, CPqGM/FIOCRUZ. Rua Waldemar Falcão 121, Brotas, Salvador, Bahia, 40295-001, Brazil

2 Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

3 Universidade Federal da Bahia, Instituto de Ciências da Saúde, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

4 Laboratório de Patologia Experimental, Centro de Pesquisa Gonçalo Moniz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

5 National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:75  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-75

Published: 6 March 2013



Human T-cell Leukemia Virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiological agent of tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-associated myelopathy (HAM/TSP) that can be identified in around 0.25%–3.8% of the infected population. Disease progression can be monitored by the proviral load and may depend on genetic factors, however, it is not well understood why some HTLV-1 infected people develop the disease while others do not. The present study attempts to assess the molecular diversity of gp46 glycoprotein in HAM/TSP patients and Health Carrier (HC) individuals.


Blood samples were collected from 10 individuals, and DNA was extracted from PBMCs to measure the HTLV-1 proviral load. The gp46 coding sequences were amplified PCR, cloned and sequenced. The molecular characterization was performed using bioinformatics tools.


The median HTLV-1 proviral load of HC (n = 5) and HAM/TSP (n = 5) patients was similar (average 316,227 copies/106 PBMCs). The gp46 molecular characterization of 146 clones (70 HC and 76 HAM/TSP) revealed an overall diversity, within HC and HAM/TSP clones, of 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively. Five frequent mutations were detected among groups (HAM/TSP and HC clone sequences). A single amino acid (aa) substitution (S35L) was exclusive for the HC group, and three gp46 substitutions (F14S, N42H, G72S) were exclusive for the HAM/TSP group. The remaining frequent mutation (V247I) was present in both groups (p = 0.0014). The in silico protein analysis revealed that the mutated alleles F14S and N42H represent more hydrophilic and flexible protein domains that are likely to be less antigenic. The Receptor Binding Domain is quite variable in the HAM/TSP group. Two other domains (aa 53–75 and 175–209) that contain multiple linear T-cell epitopes showed genetic diversity in both HAM/TSP and HC groups. Further analysis revealed 27 and 13 T-cell epitopes for class I HLA alleles and class II HLA alleles, when analyzing the entire gp46.


The most common gp46 mutations were not associated clinical status because they were found in only one individual, except for the V247I mutation, that was found at viral clones from HAM/TSP ad HC individuals. Because of this, we cannot associate any of the gp46 found mutations with the clinical profile.

HTLV-1; HAM/TSP; Gp46; Mutation