Activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 in human T-cell leukaemia virus type 1-infected cell lines and primary adult T-cell leukaemia cells

Mariko Tomita, Gregg L. Semenza, Canine Michiels, Takehiro Matsuda, Jun Nosuke Uchihara, Taeko Okudaira, Yuetsu Tanaka, Naoya Taira, Kazuiku Ohshiro, Naoki Mori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


HTLV-1 (human T-cell leukaemia virus type 1) is the causative agent for ATL (adult T-cell leukaemia). HTLV-1 Tax can activate the PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/Akt signalling pathway, which is responsible for survival of HTLV-1-infected T-cells. HIFs (hypoxia-inducible factors) are transcriptional regulators that play a central role in the response to hypoxia. Overexpression of HIF-la in many cancers is associated with a poor response to treatment and increased patient mortality. Our objectives in the present study were to investigate whether HIF-1 was activated in HTLV-1-infected T-cells and to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of HIF-1 activation by focusing on the PI3K/Akt signalling pathway. We detected a potent pathway that activated HIF-1 in the HTLV-1-infected T-cells under a normal oxygen concentration. Enhanced HIF-1α protein expression and HIF-1 DNA-binding activity were exhibited in HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines. Knockdown of HIF-1α by siRNA (small interfering RNA) suppressed the growth and VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) expression of the HTLV-1-infected T-cell line. HIF-1 protein accumulation and transcriptional activity were enhanced by Tax, which was inhibited by dominant-negative Akt. Importantly, mutant forms of Tax that are defective in activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway failed to induce HIF-1 transcriptional activity. The PI3K inhibitor LY294002 suppressed HIF-1α protein expression, HIF-1 DNA-binding and HIF-1 transcriptional activity in HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines. In primary ATL cells, HIF-1α protein levels were strongly correlated with levels of phosphorylated Akt. The results of the present study suggest that PI3K/Akt activation induced by Tax leads to activation of HIF-1. As HIF-1 plays a major role in tumour progression, it may represent a molecular target for the development of novel ATL therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


  • Adult t-cell leukaemia (ATL)
  • Akt
  • Human T-cell leukaemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1)
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1)
  • Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)
  • Tax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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