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Mol Cell Biol. 1998 Jun;18(6):3620-32.

Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 Tax and cell cycle progression: role of cyclin D-cdk and p110Rb.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0460, USA.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 is etiologically linked to the development of adult T-cell leukemia and various human neuropathies. The Tax protein of human T-cell leukemia virus type I has been implicated in cellular transformation. Like other oncoproteins, such as Myc, Jun, and Fos, Tax is a transcriptional activator. How it mechanistically dysregulates the cell cycle is unclear. Previously, it was suggested that Tax affects cell-phase transition by forming a direct protein-protein complex with p16(INK4a), thereby inactivating an inhibitor of G1-to-S-phase progression. Here we show that, in T cells deleted for p16(INK4a), Tax can compel an egress of cells from G0/G1 into S despite the absence of serum. We also show that in undifferentiated myocytes, expression of Tax represses cellular differentiation. In both settings, Tax expression was found to increase cyclin D-cdk activity and to enhance pRb phosphorylation. In T cells, a Tax-associated increase in steady-state E2F2 protein was also documented. In searching for a molecular explanation for these observations, we found that Tax forms a protein-protein complex with cyclin D3, whereas a point-mutated and transcriptionally inert Tax mutant failed to form such a complex. Interestingly, expression of wild-type Tax protein in cells was also correlated with the induction of a novel hyperphosphorylated cyclin D3 protein. Taken together, these findings suggest that Tax might directly influence cyclin D-cdk activity and function, perhaps by a route independent of cdk inhibitors such as p16(INK4a).

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