Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) was the first human retrovirus discovered. Studies on HTLV-1 have been instrumental for our understanding of the molecular pathology of virus-induced cancers. HTLV-1 is the etiological agent of an adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and can lead to a variety of neurological pathologies, including HTLV-1-associated-myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The ability to treat the aggressive ATL subtypes remains inadequate. HTLV-1 replicates by (1) an infectious cycle involving virus budding and infection of new permissive target cells and (2) mitotic division of cells harboring an integrated provirus. Virus replication initiates host antiviral immunity and the checkpoint control of cell proliferation, but HTLV-1 has evolved elegant strategies to counteract these host defense mechanisms to allow for virus persistence. The study of the molecular biology of HTLV-1 replication has provided crucial information for understanding HTLV-1 replication as well as aspects of viral replication that are shared between HTLV-1 and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Here in this review, we discuss the various stages of the virus replication cycle—both foundational knowledge as well as current updates of ongoing research that is important for understanding HTLV-1 molecular pathogenesis as well as in developing novel therapeutic strategies.
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.