Human T-cell leukaemia-lymphoma virus (HTLV) is an exogenous human retrovirus distinct from all known animal retroviruses. HTLV is closely linked to a subtype of adult T-cell malignancies and except for isolated cases, has not been found associated with any other form of leukaemia, lymphoma or other cancers (see refs 1, 2 for review). HTLV can be transmitted to cord blood T lymphocytes in vitro and the infected cells exhibit characteristics of transformed neoplastic T cells3-5. We have recently cloned DNA sequences derived from approximately 1 kilobase (kb) of the 5′ and 3′ termini of the HTLV genome, as well as a 4-5-kb defective HTLV provirus flanked by cellular sequences6. The availability of these probes has enabled us to carry out a limited survey of different fresh or cultured cells from patients of different lymphoid and myeloid malignancies for HTLV-related DNA sequences. The results presented here show that cells from all Japanese patients with adult T-cell leukaemia and several patients with various mature T-cell malignancies from elsewhere contained one or more copies of a highly conserved HTLV genome. The infected cells are of clonal origin. Fresh cells from 1 of the 10 myeloid leukaemic patients contained exogenous DNA sequences distantly related to HTLV.
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