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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 8;279(41):43307-20. Epub 2004 Jul 21.

A 10-amino acid domain within human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 and type 2 tax protein sequences is responsible for their divergent subcellular distribution.

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  • 1Unité d'Epidémiologie et Physiopathologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 and type 2 (HTLV-1/2) are related retroviruses that infect T-lymphocytes. Whereas HTLV-1 infection can cause leukemia, HTLV-2 has not been demonstrated to be the agent of a hematological malignant disease. Nevertheless, the virally encoded Tax-1 and Tax-2 transactivators display a high percentage of similarity. Tax-1 is a shuttling protein that contains a noncanonical nuclear localization signal as well as a nuclear export signal. The presence of the nuclear localization signal and the nuclear export signal domains in the Tax-2 sequence has not been determined. The distribution of Tax-2 in infected cells is not known but has been assumed to be similar to that of Tax-1. By using a Tax-2-specific antibody, we report here that Tax-2 is located predominantly in the cytoplasm of the HTLV-2 immortalized or transformed infected T-cells. These results were confirmed after transient transfection of untagged Tax-1 and Tax-2 constructs, histidine tag Tax1/Tax2, GFP-Tax, and Tax-GFP fusion constructs in several cell lines. We show that this unanticipated localization is not due to a default in the Tax-2 nuclear localization signal functions nor to major differences in Tax-2 versus Tax-1 binding to the IKKgamma/NEMO protein. In addition, we demonstrate that inhibiting the proteasome results in a relocalization of Tax-1 in the cytoplasm, similar to that of Tax-2. By using a series of Tax-1/Tax-2 chimeras, we determined that the minimal domain that is necessary for Tax-2 peculiar distribution encompasses amino acids 90-100. Finally, we show a high correlation between intracellular localization of Tax and their NF-kappaB or CREB transactivating ability.

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