The human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) Tax protein hijacks the host ubiquitin machinery to activate IκB kinases (IKKs) and NF-κB and promote cell survival; however, the key ubiquitinated factors downstream of Tax involved in cell transformation are unknown. Using mass spectrometry, we undertook an unbiased proteome-wide quantitative survey of cellular proteins modified by ubiquitin in the presence of Tax or a Tax mutant impaired in IKK activation. Tax induced the ubiquitination of 22 cellular proteins, including the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family member MCL-1, in an IKK-dependent manner. Tax was found to promote the nondegradative lysine 63 (K63)-linked polyubiquitination of MCL-1 that was dependent on the E3 ubiquitin ligase TRAF6 and the IKK complex. Tax interacted with and activated TRAF6, and triggered its mitochondrial localization, where it conjugated four carboxyl-terminal lysine residues of MCL-1 with K63-linked polyubiquitin chains, which stabilized and protected MCL-1 from genotoxic stress-induced degradation. TRAF6 and MCL-1 played essential roles in the survival of HTLV-1 transformed cells and the immortalization of primary T cells by HTLV-1. Therefore, K63-linked polyubiquitination represents a novel regulatory mechanism controlling MCL-1 stability that has been usurped by a viral oncogene to precipitate cell survival and transformation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology