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J Virol. 1995 Mar;69(3):1834-41.

Distinct regions in human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I tax mediate interactions with activator protein CREB and basal transcription factors.

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Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106.


Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) transactivator Tax augments transcription from three (cyclic AMP response element (CRE)-containing 21-bp repeats in the viral long terminal repeat and several other cis regulatory elements, including the NF-kappa B binding sites and the serum response element. Tax does not bind DNA directly; rather, it acts via cellular sequence-specific DNA binding proteins to stimulate transcription. We have shown recently that Tax forms multiprotein complexes with the heterodimeric and homodimeric forms of a ubiquitous cellular transcription factor, CREB (CRE binding protein). In vitro selection for preferred Tax-CREB binding sites indicates that the Tax-CREB complex exhibits greatly increased DNA recognition specificity and assembles preferentially on CRE motifs, TGACGT/C, flanked by long runs of G (5') and/or C (3') residues, as found in the HTLV-I 21-bp repeats. The indirect tethering of Tax to the 21-bp repeats via CREB is crucial for Tax transactivation. We now report the domain organization of Tax by characterizing its mutants. Tax mutants with alterations in the NH2 terminus, including three deletion mutants, Tax(6-353), Tax(21-353), and Tax(89-353), and two amino acid substitution mutants, M1 (H3S) and M7 (C29A, P30S), all failed to interact with CREB in vitro. In contrast, a short COOH-terminal deletion, Tax(1-319), and a Tax mutant with amino acid substitutions near the COOH end, M47 (L319R, L320S), were able to interact with CREB and the 21-bp repeats to assemble ternary Tax-CREB-DNA complexes. As demonstrated earlier, M1, M7, and M47 all failed to transactivate the HTLV-I long terminal repeat. Our data indicate that the defects in M1 and M7 result from an inability to interact with CREB. In contrast, the COOH-terminal mutations in M47 most likely inactivated the transactivation domain of Tax. As anticipated, a Tax mutant, M22 (G137A, L138S) which activated transcription from the 21-bp repeats with reduced capacity and was defective in trans activating the NF-kappa B binding sites, continued to interact with CREB in vitro, albeit with a lower level of efficiency. Finally, a glutathione S-transferase (GST)-Tax fusion protein with the GST moiety fused to the NH2 terminus of Tax failed to interact with CREB. Removal of the GST domain from GST-Tax by thrombin restores Tax's ability to assemble a ternary Tax-CREB-21-bp-repeat complex.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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