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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 1, 1992; 89(15): 7070–7074.

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) transcriptional activator, Tax, enhances CREB binding to HTLV-I 21-base-pair repeats by protein-protein interaction.


HTLV-I Tax protein activates transcription from three 21-base-pair (bp) repeat sequences in the viral enhancer. The HTLV-I 21-bp repeat contains a TGACGT motif that is homologous to the cAMP-responsive element (CRE) and crucial for tax transactivation. Tax exhibits marginal affinity for DNA but rather interacts with cellular CRE-binding proteins to enhance their affinity for the HTLV-I 21-bp repeats. Using the HTLV-I 21-bp repeat and Jurkat T-lymphocyte nuclear extract in a gel electrophoretic mobility-shift assay, we previously detected three protein-DNA complexes that are specific for the CRE in the 21-bp repeat (complexes I, II, and IV). Complexes I and II but not IV interacted with Tax. We now show that complexes I, II, and IV are composed of CREB (CRE binding protein) homodimer, CREB/ATF-1 (activating transcription factor 1) heterodimer, and ATF-1 homodimer, respectively. Tax stabilizes complexes I and II via a direct interaction with the CREB moiety. In the absence of DNA, CREB and Tax continue to form a complex that can be immunoprecipitated by a Tax-specific antibody. These results suggest that one mechanism by which Tax activates transcription may be mediated through the direct interaction with CREB homodimer and/or CREB/ATF-1 heterodimer to stabilize their assembly on the Tax-responsive CRE motifs in the HTLV-I enhancer.

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