Journal of Virology vol:72 issue:5 pages:4327-4340
We identified a potential new subtype within human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 2 (HTLV-2), HTLV-2d, present in members of an isolated Efe Bambuti Pygmy tribe. Two of 23 Efe Pygmies were HTLV-2 seropositive, with HTLV-2 Western blot and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay reactivities. From one of them the entire genome of the HTLV-2 strain Efe2 could be amplified and sequenced. In all gene regions analyzed, this strain was the most divergent HTLV-2 strain, differing by 2.4% (tax/rex) to 10.7% (long terminal repeat) from both subtypes HTLV-2a and HTLV-2b, yet major functional elements are conserved. The similarity between the HTLV-2 Efe2 Gag and Env proteins and the corresponding HTLV-2a and -2b proteins is consistent with the observed serological reactivity. In the proximal pX region, one of the two alternative splice acceptor sites is abolished in HTLV-2 Efe2. Another interesting feature of this potential new subtype is that it has a Tax protein of 344 amino acids (aa), which is intermediate in length between the HTLV-2a Tax protein (331 aa) and the HTLV-2b and -2c Tax proteins (356 aa) and similar to the simian T-cell lymphotropic virus type 2 (STLV-2) PP1664 Tax protein. Together these two findings suggest a different phenotype for the HTLV-2 Efe2 strain. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed that the Pygmy Efe2 strain potentially belonged to a new and quite divergent subtype, HTLV-2d. When the STLV-2 bonobo viruses PP1664 and PanP were used as an outgroup, it was clear that the Pygmy HTLV-2 Efe2 strain had the longest independent evolution and that HTLV-2 evolution is consistent with an African origin.