Journal of neuroimmunology 2016 10 03304() 43-50 pii 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2016.09.014
Pathology of HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/Tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is believed to be the result of "bystander damage" involving effector CD8 (+) T lymphocytes (CTLs) killing of virus infected cells. But the specific cellular events leading up to tissue injury are still unclear. Here, we developed the Microscopy Imaging of Cytotoxic T lymphocyte assay with Fluorescence emission (MI-CaFé), an optimized visualization analysis to explore the interactions between CTLs and virus infected or viral antigen presenting target cells. Various cell-to-cell formations can be observed and our results demonstrate elevated frequencies of CTL-target cell conjugates in HAM/TSP patient PBMCs compared to control PBMCs. Furthermore, HTLV-1 Tax protein expression can be localized at the cell-cell junctions and also tracked moving from an infected cell to a CD14 (+) mononuclear phagocyte (MP). Activation of CD14 (+) MPs in HAM/TSP patient PBMCs and antigenic presentation of HTLV-1 Tax by MPs can be inferred by their spontaneous cytotoxicity after 18h of in vitro culture. Given that CD4 (+) T lymphocytes are the primary reservoirs of HTLV-1 and MPs are scavenger cells responsible for pathogen clearance, spontaneous cytotoxicity against MPs in HAM/TSP PBMCs suggests a mechanism of chronic inflammation, secondary to low level of persistent virus infection within the central nervous system.