Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiological agent of a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disease, HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP). This disease develops upon infiltration of HTLV-1-infected lymphocytes into the central nervous system, mostly at the thoracic spinal cord level. The central nervous system is, in normal condition, protected by a physiological structure called blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is mostly constituted by a continuous endothelium with tight junctions.
We have previously demonstrated that in HAM/TSP patients, the tight junctions of the BBB endothelium are locally disorganized, which allows for T cells transmigration into the CNS and results in a neuroinflammation. Current studies focus on many factors involved in the interaction of HTLV-1 infected lymphocytes with the BBB endothelium.