Genetic variants of human T-lymphotropic virus type II in American Indian groups

R J Biggar, M E Taylor, J V Neel, B Hjelle, P H Levine, F L Black, G M Shaw, P M Sharp, B H Hahn

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The human T-lymphotropic virus type II (HTLV-II) is found in many New World Indian groups in North and South America and may have entered the New World from Asia with the earliest migration of ancestral Amerindians over 15,000 years ago. To characterize the phylogenetic relationships of HTLV-II strains infecting geographically diverse Indian populations, we used polymerase chain reaction to amplify HTLV-II sequences from lymphocytes of seropositive Amerindians from Brazil (Kraho, Kayapo, and Kaxuyana), Panama (Guaymi), and the United States (the Navajo and Pueblo tribes of the southwestern states and the Seminoles of Florida). Sequence analysis of a 780-base pair fragment (located between the env gene and the second exons of tax/rex) revealed that Amerindian viruses clustered in the same two genetic subtypes (IIa and IIb) previously identified for viruses from intravenous drug users. Most infected North and Central American Indians had subtype Ilb, while HTLV-II infected members of three remote Amazonian tribes clustered as a distinct group within subtype IIa. These findings suggest that the ancestral Amerindians migrating to the New World brought at least two genetic subtypes, IIa and IIb. Because HTLV-II strains from Amazonian Indians form a distinct group within subtype HTLV-IIa, these Brazilian tribes are unlikely to be the source of IIa viruses in North American drug users. Finally, the near identity of viral sequences from geographically diverse populations indicate that HTLV-II is a very ancient virus of man. (C) 1996 Academic Press. Inc

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-173
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1996

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