A preclinical model for the ATLL lymphoma subtype with insights into the role of microenvironment in HTLV-1-mediated lymphomagenesis

Mattia Vicario, Adriana Mattiolo, Barbara Montini, Maria Assunta Piano, Ilaria Cavallari, Alberto Amadori, Luigi Chieco-Bianchi, Maria Luisa Calabrò

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Adult T cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL) is a mature T cell malignancy associated with Human T cell Leukemia Virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection. Among its four main clinical subtypes, the prognosis of acute and lymphoma variants remains poor. The long latency (3-6 decades) and low incidence (3-5%) of ATLL imply the involvement of viral and host factors in full-blown malignancy. Despite multiple preclinical and clinical studies, the contribution of the stromal microenvironment in ATLL development is not yet completely unraveled. The aims of this study were to investigate the role of the host microenvironment, and specifically fibroblasts, in ATLL pathogenesis and to propose a murine model for the lymphoma subtype. Here we present evidence that the oncogenic capacity of HTLV-1-immortalized C91/PL cells is enhanced when they are xenotransplanted together with human foreskin fibroblasts (HFF) in immunocompromised BALB/c Rag2-/-γc -/- mice. Moreover, cell lines derived from a developed lymphoma and their subsequent in vivo passages acquired the stable property to induce aggressive T cell lymphomas. In particular, one of these cell lines, C91/III cells, consistently induced aggressive lymphomas also in NOD/SCID/IL2Rγc KO (NSG) mice. To dissect the mechanisms linked to this enhanced tumorigenic ability, we quantified 45 soluble factors released by these cell lines and found that 21 of them, mainly pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, were significantly increased in C91/III cells compared to the parental C91/PL cells. Moreover, many of the increased factors were also released by human fibroblasts and belonged to the known secretory pattern of ATLL cells. C91/PL cells co-cultured with HFF showed features reminiscent of those observed in C91/III cells, including a similar secretory pattern and a more aggressive behavior in vivo. On the whole, our data provide evidence that fibroblasts, one of the major stromal components, might enhance tumorigenesis of HTLV-1-infected and immortalized T cells, thus throwing light on the role of microenvironment contribution in ATLL pathogenesis. We also propose that the lymphoma induced in NSG mice by injection with C91/III cells represents a new murine preclinical ATLL model that could be adopted to test novel therapeutic interventions for the aggressive lymphoma subtype.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1215
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - Jun 13 2018


  • ATLL
  • Fibroblasts
  • HTLV-1
  • Lymphoma
  • Microenvironment
  • Preclinical model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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