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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 Rex regulatory protein exhibits an impaired functionality in human lymphoblastoid Jurkat T cells.

The Rex protein of human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) intervenes in the posttranscriptional regulation of proviral gene expression. Its binding to the Rex response element (XRE) present in the 3' long terminal repeat ensures the coordinate cytoplasmic accumulation of spliced and unspliced forms of viral messengers. Consequently, synthesis of viral structural and enzymatic proteins is strictly dependent on the Rex posttranscriptional activity. Here we report that synthesis of HTLV-1 envelope glycoproteins by Jurkat T cells could be detected only when they were regulated in a Rex-independent manner. Indeed, Jurkat T cells transfected with a Rex-dependent env expression vector (encompassing both the env and pX open reading frames) do not produce significant levels of envelope glycoproteins despite the production of significant amounts of Rex protein. The analysis of levels and distribution patterns of the unspliced env and of the singly spliced tax/ rex transcripts suggests that the failure in envelope glycoprotein synthesis may be ascribed to a deficiency of Rex in mediating the nucleocytoplasmic transport of unspliced env RNAs in these cells. Furthermore, despite the synthesis of regulatory proteins, HTLV-1 structural proteins were not detected in Jurkat T cells transfected with an HTLV-1 infectious provirus. Conversely, and as expected, structural proteins were produced by Jurkat cells transfected by a human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infectious provirus. This phenotype appeared to be linked to a specific dysfunction of Rex, since the functionally equivalent Rev protein of HIV-1 was shown to be fully efficient in promoting the synthesis of HTLV-1 envelope glycoproteins in Jurkat cells. Therefore, it seems likely that the block to Rex function in these lymphoblastoid T cells is determined by inefficient Rex-XRE interactions. These observations suggest that the acquisition of this Rex-deficient phenotype by in vivo-infected HTLV-1 T cells may represent a critical event in the lymphoproliferation induced by this human retrovirus, leading to leukemia.[1]


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