Infection by human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) occurs in lymphocytes, which travel throughout the body, thus affecting several target organs and causing varied clinical outcomes, particularly in populations that are underserved and do not have access to healthcare. However, the mechanism of pathogenesis is not yet fully understood. The TAX and HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ) proteins maintain viral persistence and affect pathogenesis through cell proliferation and immune and inflammatory responses that accompany each clinical manifestation. TAX expression leads to inhibition of transcription error control, OX40 overexpression, and cell proliferation in adult T-cell leukemia (ATL). OX40 levels are elevated in the central nervous system (CNS), and the expression of TAX in the CNS causes neuronal damage and loss of immune reactivity among patients with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (HAM). HBZ reduces viral replication and suppresses the immune response. Its cell compartmentalization has been associated with the pathogenesis of HAM (cytoplasmic localization) and ATL (nuclear localization). TAX and HBZ seem to act antagonistically in immune responses, affecting the pathogenesis of HTLV-1 infection. The progression from HTLV-1 infection to disease is a consequence of HTLV-1 replication in CD4 T and CD8 T lymphocytes and the imbalance between proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. The compartmentalization of HBZ suggests that this protein may be an additional tool for assessing immune and inflammatory responses, in addition to those already recognized as potential biomarkers associated with progression from infection to disease (including human leukocyte antigen (HLA), killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, IL-28, Fas, Fas ligand, interferon (IFN)-γ, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and mannose-binding lectin).
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