The exact molecular mechanisms regarding HTLV-1 Tax-mediated viral gene expression and CD4 T-cell transformation have yet to be fully delineated. Herein, utilizing virus-infected primary CD4+ T cells and the virus-producing cell line, MT-2, we describe the involvement and regulation of Myocyte enhancer factor-2 (specifically MEF-2A) during the course of HTLV-1 infection and associated disease syndrome. Results: Inhibition of MEF-2 expression by shRNA and its activity by HDAC9 led to reduced viral replication and T-cell transformation in correlation with a heightened expression of MEF-2 in ATL patients. Mechanistically, MEF-2 was recruited to the viral promoter (LTR, long terminal repeat) in the context of chromatin, and constituted Tax/CREB transcriptional complex via direct binding to the HTLV-1 LTR. Furthermore, an increase in MEF-2 expression was observed upon infection in an extent similar to CREB (known Tax-interacting transcription factor), and HATs (p300, CBP, and p/CAF). Confocal imaging confirmed MEF-2 co-localization with Tax and these proteins were also shown to interact by co-immunoprecipitation. MEF-2 stabilization of Tax/CREB complex was confirmed by a novel promoter-binding assay that highlighted the involvement of NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) in this process via Tax-mediated activation of calcineurin (a calcium-dependent serine-threonine phosphatase). MEF-2-integrated signaling pathways (PI3K/Akt, NF-κB, MAPK, JAK/STAT, and TGF-β) were also activated during HTLV-1 infection of primary CD4+ T cells, possibly regulating MEF-2 activity. Conclusions: We demonstrate the involvement of MEF-2 in Tax-mediated LTR activation, viral replication, and T-cell transformation in correlation with its heightened expression in ATL patients through direct binding to DNA within the HTLV-1 LTR.
- Myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF-2)
- Retroviral promoter
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases