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J Virol. 2012 Sep;86(17):9474-83. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00158-12. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

HTLV-1 tax-induced rapid senescence is driven by the transcriptional activity of NF-κB and depends on chronically activated IKKα and p65/RelA.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The HTLV-1 oncoprotein Tax is a potent activator of classical and alternative NF-κB pathways and is thought to promote cell proliferation and transformation via NF-κB activation. We showed recently that hyperactivation of NF-κB by Tax triggers a cellular senescence response (H. Zhi et al., PLoS Pathog. 7:e1002025, 2011). Inhibition of NF-κB activation by expression of I-κBα superrepressor or by small hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of p65/RelA rescues cells from Tax-induced rapid senescence (Tax-IRS). Here we demonstrate that Tax-IRS is driven by the transcriptional activity of NF-κB. Knockdown of IKKγ, the primary Tax target, by shRNAs abrogated Tax-mediated activation of both classical and alternative NF-κB pathways and rendered knockdown cells resistant to Tax-IRS. Consistent with a critical role of IKKα in the transcriptional activity of NF-κB, IKKα deficiency drastically decreased NF-κB trans-activation by Tax, although it only modestly reduced Tax-mediated I-κBα degradation and NF-κB nuclear localization. In contrast, although IKKβ knockdown attenuated Tax-induced NF-κB transcriptional activation, the residual NF-κB activation in IKKβ-deficient cells was sufficient to trigger Tax-IRS. Importantly, the phenotypes of NIK and TAK1 knockdown were similar to those of IKKα and IKKβ knockdown, respectively. Finally, double knockdown of RelB and p100 had a minor effect on senescence induction by Tax. These data suggest that Tax, through its interaction with IKKγ, helps recruit NIK and TAK1 for IKKα and IKKβ activation, respectively. In the presence of Tax, the delineation between the classical and alternative NF-κB pathways becomes obscured. The senescence checkpoint triggered by Tax is driven by the transcriptional activity of NF-κB, which depends on activated IKKα and p65/RelA.

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