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Retrovirology. 2005 Nov 14;2:70.

Presence of a functional but dispensable nuclear export signal in the HTLV-2 Tax protein.

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Unité d'Epidémiologie et Physiopathologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.



Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 and type 2 are related human retroviruses. HTLV-1 is the etiological agent of the Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma and of the Tropical Spastic Paraparesis/HTLV-1 Associated Myelopathy, whereas, HTLV-2 infection has not been formally associated with any T-cell malignancy. HTLV-1 and 2 genomes encode, respectively, the Tax1 and Tax2 proteins whose role is to transactivate the viral promoter. HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 Tax sequences display 28% divergence at the amino acid level. Tax1 is a shuttling protein that possesses both a non canonical nuclear import (NLS) and a nuclear export (NES) signal. We have recently demonstrated that Tax1 and Tax2 display different subcellular localization and that residues 90-100 are critical for this process. We investigate in the present report, whether Tax2 also possesses a functional NES.


We first used a NES prediction method to determine whether the Tax2 protein might contain a NES and the results do suggest the presence of a NES sequence in Tax2. Using Green Fluorescent Protein-NES (GFP-NES) fusion proteins, we demonstrate that the Tax2 sequence encompasses a functional NES (NES2). As shown by microscope imaging, NES2 is able to mediate translocation of GFP from the nucleus, without the context of a full length Tax protein. Furthermore, point mutations or leptomycin B treatment abrogate NES2 function. However, within the context of full length Tax2, similar point mutations in the NES2 leucine rich stretch do not modify Tax2 localization. Finally, we also show that Tax1 NES function is dependent upon the positioning of the nuclear export signal "vis-à-vis" GFP.


HTLV-2 Tax NES is functional but dispensable for the protein localization in vitro.

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