Before the establishment of an adaptive immune response, retroviruses can be targeted by several cellular host factors at different stages of the viral replication cycle. This intrinsic immunity relies on a large diversity of antiviral processes. In the case of HTLV-1 infection, these active innate host defense mechanisms are debated. Among these mechanisms, we focused on an RNA decay pathway called nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), which can target multiple viral RNAs, including HTLV-1 unspliced RNA, as has been recently demonstrated. NMD is a co-translational process that depends on the RNA helicase UPF1 and regulates the expression of multiple types of host mRNAs. RNA sensitivity to NMD depends on mRNA organization and the ribonucleoprotein (mRNP) composition. HTLV-1 has evolved several means to evade the NMD threat, leading to NMD inhibition. In the early steps of infection, NMD inhibition favours the production of HTLV-1 infectious particles, which may contribute to the survival of the fittest clones despite genome instability; however, its direct long-term impact remains to be investigated.
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