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Retrovirology. 2009 Feb 3;6:10. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-6-10.

Rev and Rex proteins of human complex retroviruses function with the MMTV Rem-responsive element.

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Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.



Mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) encodes the Rem protein, an HIV Rev-like protein that enhances nuclear export of unspliced viral RNA in rodent cells. We have shown that Rem is expressed from a doubly spliced RNA, typical of complex retroviruses. Several recent reports indicate that MMTV can infect human cells, suggesting that MMTV might interact with human retroviruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV), and human endogenous retrovirus type K (HERV-K). In this report, we test whether the export/regulatory proteins of human complex retroviruses will increase expression from vectors containing the Rem-responsive element (RmRE).


MMTV Rem, HIV Rev, and HTLV Rex proteins, but not HERV-K Rec, enhanced expression from an MMTV-based reporter plasmid in human T cells, and this activity was dependent on the RmRE. No RmRE-dependent reporter gene expression was detectable using Rev, Rex, or Rec in HC11 mouse mammary cells. Cell fractionation and RNA quantitation experiments suggested that the regulatory proteins did not affect RNA stability or nuclear export in the MMTV reporter system. Rem had no demonstrable activity on export elements from HIV, HTLV, or HERV-K. Similar to the Rem-specific activity in rodent cells, the RmRE-dependent functions of Rem, Rev, or Rex in human cells were inhibited by a dominant-negative truncated nucleoporin that acts in the Crm1 pathway of RNA and protein export.


These data argue that many retroviral regulatory proteins recognize similar complex RNA structures, which may depend on the presence of cell-type specific proteins. Retroviral protein activity on the RmRE appears to affect a post-export function of the reporter RNA. Our results provide additional evidence that MMTV is a complex retrovirus with the potential for viral interactions in human cells.

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