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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Dec 17;95(24):1846-59.

Interaction of retroviral Tax oncoproteins with tristetraprolin and regulation of tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression.

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Biologie cellulaire et moléculaire, Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques, Gembloux, Belgium.



The Tax oncoproteins are transcriptional regulators of viral expression involved in pathogenesis induced by complex leukemogenic retroviruses (or delta-retroviruses, i.e., primate T-cell leukemia viruses and bovine leukemia virus). To better understand the molecular pathways leading to cell transformation, we aimed to identify cellular proteins interacting with Tax.


We used a yeast two-hybrid system to identify interacting cellular proteins. Interactions between Tax and candidate interacting cellular proteins were confirmed by glutathione S-transferase (GST) pulldown assays, co-immunoprecipitation, and confocal microscopy. Functional interactions between Tax and one interacting protein, tristetraprolin (TTP), were assessed by analyzing the expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which is regulated by TTP, in mammalian cells (HeLa, D17, HEK 293, and RAW 264.7) transiently transfected with combinations of intact and mutant Tax and TTP.


We obtained seven interacting cellular proteins, of which one, TTP, was further characterized. Tax and TTP were found to interact specifically through their respective carboxyl-terminal domains. The proteins colocalized in the cytoplasm in a region surrounding the nucleus of HeLa cells. Furthermore, coexpression of Tax was associated with nuclear accumulation of TTP. TTP is an immediate-early protein that inhibits expression of TNF-alpha at the post-transcriptional level. Expression of Tax reverted this inhibition, both in transient transfection experiments and in stably transfected macrophage cell lines.


Tax, through its interactions with the TTP repressor, indirectly increases TNF-alpha expression. This observation is of importance for the cell transformation process induced by leukemogenic retroviruses, because TNF-alpha overexpression plays a central role in pathogenesis.

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