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Retrovirology. 2010 Jul 23;7:61. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-7-61.

Expression of a protein involved in bone resorption, Dkk1, is activated by HTLV-1 bZIP factor through its activation domain.

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East Carolina University, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, NC 27834, USA.



Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiologic agent of adult T-cell leukemia, a malignancy characterized by uncontrolled proliferation of virally-infected CD4+ T-cells. Hypercalcemia and bone lesions due to osteoclast-mediated bone resorption are frequently associated with more aggressive forms of the disease. The HTLV-1 provirus contains a unique antisense gene that expresses HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper (bZIP) factor (HBZ). HBZ is localized to the nucleus where it regulates levels of transcription by binding to certain cellular transcriptional regulators. Among its protein targets, HBZ forms a stable complex with the homologous cellular coactivators, p300 and CBP, which is modulated through two N-terminal LXXLL motifs in the viral protein and the conserved KIX domain in the coactivators.


To determine the effects of these interactions on transcription, we performed a preliminary microarray analysis, comparing levels of gene expression in cells with wild-type HBZ versus cells with HBZ mutated in its LXXLL motifs. DKK1, which encodes the secreted Wnt signaling inhibitor, Dickkopf-1 (Dkk1), was confirmed to be transcriptionally activated by HBZ, but not its mutant. Dkk1 plays a major role in the development of bone lesions caused by multiple myeloma. In parallel with the initial findings, activation of Dkk1 expression by HBZ was abrogated by siRNA-mediated knockdown of p300/CBP or by a truncated form of p300 containing the KIX domain. Among HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines tested, the detection of Dkk1 mRNA partially correlated with a threshold level of HBZ mRNA. In addition, an uninfected and an HTLV-1-infected T-cell line transfected with an HBZ expression vector exhibited de novo and increased DKK1 transcription, respectively. In contrast to HBZ, The HTLV-1 Tax protein repressed Dkk1 expression.


These data indicate that HBZ activates Dkk1 expression through its interaction with p300/CBP. However, this effect is limited in HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines, which in part, may be due to suppression of Dkk1 expression by Tax. Consequently, the ability of HBZ to regulate expression of Dkk1 and possibly other cellular genes may only be significant during late stages of ATL, when Tax expression is repressed.

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