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Front Microbiol. 2019 Apr 26;10:819. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00819. eCollection 2019.

HTLV-1 HBZ Protein Resides Exclusively in the Cytoplasm of Infected Cells in Asymptomatic Carriers and HAM/TSP Patients.

Author information

1
Laboratories of General Pathology and Immunology "Giovanna Tosi," Department of Medicine and Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy.
2
INSERM U1016, CNRS UMR 8104, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Institut Cochin, Paris, France.
3
Viral Immunology Section, Neuroimmunology Branch, NINDS/NIH, Bethesda, MD, United States.

Abstract

Human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the causative agent of adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) in a subset of infected subjects. Two viral proteins, Tax-1 and HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ), play important roles in the pathogenesis of both diseases. We recently demonstrated that HBZ, previously considered a nuclear protein, is exclusively localized in the cytoplasm of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of HAM/TSP patients. Here, the analysis of a larger panel of HAM/TSP cases confirmed that HBZ is a cytoplasmic protein, while Tax-1 preferentially localized in the cytoplasm with fewer speckle-like dots in the nucleus. More importantly, here we report for the first time that HBZ, when expressed in asymptomatic carriers (AC), is also confined in the cytoplasm. Similarly, Tax-1 was preferentially expressed in the cytoplasm in a significant proportion of AC. Interestingly, in both HAM/TSP and AC patients, the expression of HBZ and Tax-1 was rarely found in the same cell. We observed only few cases coexpressing the two oncoprotein in a very limited number of cells. In representative AC and HAM/TSP patients, cells expressing cytoplasmic HBZ were almost exclusively found in the CD4+ T cell compartment and very rarely in CD8+ T cells. Interestingly, at least in the cases analyzed, the expression of thymocite-expressed molecule involved in selection (THEMIS) is dispensable for the cytoplasmic localization of HBZ in both AC and HAM/TSP. The study of an HTLV-1-immortalized cell line established from an HAM/TSP patient confirmed HBZ as a resident cytoplasmic protein not shuttling between the cytoplasm and nucleus. These results extend our previous observation on the dichotomy of HBZ localization between HAM/TSP and ATL, pointing to the exclusive either cytoplasmic or nuclear localization in the two diseased states, respectively. Moreover, they show a rather selective expression in distinct cells of either HBZ or Tax-1. The unprecedented observation that HBZ is expressed only in the cytoplasm in AC strongly suggests a progressive modification of HBZ localization during the disease states associated to HTLV-1 infection. Future studies will clarify whether the distinct HBZ intracellular localization is a marker or a causative event of disease evolution.

KEYWORDS:

HAM/TSP; HBZ; HTLV-1; Tax-1; asymptomatic carriers

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