Human T cell leukemia virus type 1 and type 2 (HTLV-1 and -2) are two closely related retroviruses with the former causing adult T cell leukemia. HTLV-2 infection is prevalent among intravenous drug users, and the viral genome encodes the viral transactivator Tax, which is highly homologous to the transforming protein Tax from HTLV-1. However, the link between HTLV-2 infection and leukemia has not been established. In the present study, we evaluated the activity of HTLV-2 Tax in promoting aberrant proliferation of human CD4 T lymphocytes. Tax2 efficiently immortalized CD4+ memory T lymphocytes with a CD3/TCRαβ/CD4/CD25/CD45RO/CD69 immunophenotype, promoted constitutive activation of PI3K/Akt, IκB kinase/NF-κB, mitogen-activated protein kinase, and STAT3, and it also increased the level of Mcl-1. Disruption of these oncogenic pathways led to growth retardation and apoptotic cell death of the Tax2-established T cell lines. We further found that Tax2 induced autophagy by interacting with the autophagy molecule complex containing Beclin1 and PI3K class III to form the LC3+ autophagosome. Tax2-mediated autophagy promoted survival and proliferation of the immortalized T cells. The present study demonstrated the oncogenic properties of Tax2 in human T cells and also implicated Tax2 in serving as a molecular tool to generate distinct T cell subtype lines.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology