Adult T cell leukemia (ATL) is associated with human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection, and almost all ATL patients have the complication of hypercalcemia. To understand the mechanism of the high incidence of hypercalcemia in ATL, we studied the expression of a parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) gene that has been proposed as a causative factor of hypercalcemia in some solid tumors. The polymerase chain reaction coupled with reverse transcription of mRNA was applied to RNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Cells from all 13 ATL patients examined showed abundant expression of the PTHrP gene, while cells from uninfected normal subjects did not. Significant expression of PTHrP gene was also detected in HTLV-1 carriers without any symptoms and in patients with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy or tropical spastic paraparesis. PTHrP mRNA levels correlated with the number of infected cells that were estimated by the integrated HTLV-1 DNA. These results suggest that HTLV-1-infected cells are expressing the PTHrP gene. This concept was further supported by the finding that the HTLV-1 trans-activator, the tax gene product, caused trans-activation of the PTHrP gene promoter linked to the CAT gene. These observations might explain the general expression of the PTHrP gene in ATL patients and the high incidence of hypercalcemia in ATL.

This content is only available as a PDF.