Adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) is neoplasm of the mature helper T lymphocytes and human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I) has been shown to be causative virus of ATL. Because HTLV-I integrates its provirus randomly into host chromosomal DNA, monoclonal integration of HTLV-I provirus indicates the clonal proliferation of HTLV-I-infected cells. Therefore, demonstration of clonality of HTLV-I proviral DNA is essential to diagnosis of ATL. Southern blot analysis was used for this purpose. We developed the novel method using inverse polymerase chain reaction (IPCR) to detect the clonality of HTLV-I proviral DNA. This method identified the clonality in all ATL cases. Diagnosis could be made within 3 days using this method. It enabled us to detect specifically the presence of minimal numbers of ATL cells with high sensitivity. It also identified the monoclonal or oligoclonal proliferations of HTLV-I-infected cells in HTLV-I carriers and the intermediate state, in which no clonality could be shown by conventional Southern blot analyses. This finding indicated that even HTLV-I carriers had monoclonal proliferation of HTLV-I-infected cells without any symptoms. This novel method is shown to be useful for the diagnosis of ATL and provides information on the natural course of HTLV- I infection.

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