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EMBO J. 1996 Apr 1;15(7):1607-14.

HTLV-1 Tax protein interacts with cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p16INK4A and counteracts its inhibitory activity towards CDK4.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Tax, a regulatory protein of human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), is an oncoprotein which immortalizes human T cells and induces tumors in transgenic mice. These effects may be due to its interaction with cellular proteins, consisting of several transcription factors including CREB, NF-kappa B and SRF, and the transcriptional inhibitor, I kappa B. Here, we found that Tax binds to a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p16INK4A, which has ankyrin motifs similar to I kappa B. p16INK4A binds to the cyclin-dependent kinases, CDK4 and CDK6, and inhibits their activity, resulting in suppression of G1 phase progression. The binding of Tax to p16INK4a induced a reduction in the p16INK4A-CDK4 complex, with subsequent activation of CDK4 kinase. Tax also suppressed p16INK4A-mediated inhibition of U2OS cell growth. The p16INK4A gene was frequently deleted in many T-cell lines, but not in HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines. Taking these findings together, the functional inactivation of p16INK4A by Tax through protein-protein interaction is suggested to contribute to cellular immortalization and transformation induced by HTLV-1 infection.

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