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J Virol. 2002 Oct;76(20):10374-82.

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 p12(I) expression increases cytoplasmic calcium to enhance the activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells.

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  • 1Center for Retrovirus Research, Department of Veterinary Biosciences, The Ohio State University, 1925 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) establishes persistent infection and is associated with lymphoproliferative or neurodegenerative diseases. As a complex retrovirus, HTLV-1 contains typical structural and enzymatic genes, as well as regulatory and accessory genes encoded in the pX region. The early events necessary for HTLV-1 to establish infection in lymphocytes, its primary target cells, remain unresolved. Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of regulatory and accessory gene products in determining this virus-host interaction. Among these, pX open reading frame I, which encodes two proteins, p12(I) and p27(I), is required for establishing persistent infection in vivo and for infection in quiescent primary lymphocytes. In addition, p12(I) localizes in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and cis-Golgi apparatus and associates with a calcium binding protein, calreticulin. We recently reported that p12(I) expression induces the calcium-responsive T-cell transcription factor, nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT), in the presence of phorbol ester activation. Based on these studies, we hypothesize that p12(I) may modulate calcium release from the ER. Here, we report that p12(I) expression increases basal cytoplasmic calcium and concurrently diminishes calcium available for release from the ER stores. Overexpression of calreticulin, a calcium buffer protein, blocked p12(I)-mediated NFAT activation independently of its ability to bind p12(I). Chemical inhibition studies using inhibitors of inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptor and calcium release-activated calcium channels suggest that inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptor in the ER membrane and calcium release-activated calcium channels in the plasma membrane contribute to p12(I)-mediated NFAT activation. Collectively, our results are the first to demonstrate the role of p12(I) in elevating cytoplasmic calcium, an antecedent to T-cell activation, and further support the important role of this accessory protein in the early events of HTLV-1 infection.

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