- HTLV-I is etiologically implicated with tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-I associated myelopathy, adult T-cell leukemia and certain other diseases. However, after infection the virus enters into a dormant state, whereas the characteristics of the HTLV-I related diseases indicate that their genesis requires activation of the dormant virus by a Tax -independent mechanism. In the present study we demonstrate that a variety of stress-inducing agents (TPA, cisplatin, etoposide, taxol, and 3-methylcholanthrene) are capable of Tax -independent activation of HTLV-I LTR and that this activation is detected mainly in cells that are undergoing through the apoptotic process. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that both apoptosis induction and HTLV-I LTR activation are inhibited by Bcl-2 and by PKC, indicating that these two processes are mechanistically cross-linked. In addition, using an HTLV-I producing human T-cell line which permanently express the negatively transdominant tax mutant, Δ58 tax, under the Tet-Off control system, we prove that the virally encoded Tax protein protects the host cells from apoptosis. Together, these data suggest that activation of the dormant virus in the carriers' infected T-cells by certain stress-inducing conditions and protecting these cells from the consequent apoptotic death by the viral Tax protein emerging after this activation, might be the basis for switching the virus from latency to a pathogenic phase.