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J Cell Physiol. 2005 Jun;203(3):547-56.

HIV-1 Tat protein concomitantly down-regulates apical caspase-10 and up-regulates c-FLIP in lymphoid T cells: a potential molecular mechanism to escape TRAIL cytotoxicity.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Microbiology Section, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


In this study, we showed the existence of a positive correlation between the amount of human immunodeficiency virus-type 1 (HIV-1) RNA in HIV-1 seropositive subjects and the plasma levels of TRAIL. Since it has been previously demonstrated that HIV-1 Tat protein up-regulates the expression of TRAIL in monocytic cells whereas tat-expressing lymphoid cells are more resistant to TRAIL cytotoxicity, we next investigated the effect of Tat on the expression/activity of both apical caspase-8 and -10, which play a key role in mediating the initial phases of apoptosis by TRAIL, and c-FLIP. Jurkat lymphoblastoid human T cell lines stably transfected with a plasmid expressing wild-type (HIV-1) tat gene showed normal levels of caspase-8 but significantly decreased levels of caspase-10 at both mRNA and protein levels with respect to Jurkat transfected with the control plasmid or with a mutated (cys22) non-functional tat cDNA. A significant decrease of caspase-10 expression/activity was also observed in transient transfection experiments with plasmid carrying tat cDNA. Moreover, c-FLIP(L) and c-FLIP(S) isoforms were up-regulated in tat-expressing cells at both mRNA and protein level in comparison with control cells. Taken together, these results provide a molecular basis to explain the resistance of tat-expressing Jurkat cells to apoptosis induced by TRAIL and, possibly, to other death-inducing ligands.

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