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Oncogene. 1995 Sep 7;11(5):993-8.

Activation of NF-kappa B/Rel by Tax involves degradation of I kappa B alpha and is blocked by a proteasome inhibitor.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey Medical Center, Hershey 17033, USA.


The tax gene product of the human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) induces the nuclear expression and biological function of the NF-kappa B/Rel family of host transcription factors although the underlying mechanism remains unclear. In the present study, we demonstrate that Tax-mediated activation of NF-kappa B/Rel can be inhibited by a proteasome inhibitor, suggesting the involvement of proteolytic reactions in this Tax-specific activation pathway. Transient transfection and reporter gene assays have revealed that Tax overrides the inhibitory function of I kappa B alpha in both F9 embryonal cells and Jurkat T cells. Moreover, Tax-mediated inactivation of I kappa B alpha requires a 16 amino acid sequence element located at the N-terminal region (amino acid 21-36) of I kappa B alpha, which is also required for tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced degradation of this inhibitory protein. We further demonstrate that the proteasome inhibitor also blocks the degradation of I kappa B alpha observed in HTLV-I-infected T cells. Interestingly, inhibition of I kappa B alpha degradation in these cells led to the accumulation of a phosphorylated form of I kappa B alpha. Together, these studies suggest that Tax activation of NF-kappa B/Rel may involve induction of phosphorylation and subsequent proteasome-mediated degradation of the inhibitor I kappa B alpha.

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