HTLV-I Tax and Cytokeratin: Tax-Expressing Cells Show Morphological Changes in Keratin-Containing Cytoskeletal Networks

J Biomed Sci. Jan-Feb 1997;4(1):47-53. doi: 10.1007/BF02255593.

Abstract

Human T cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) has been linked to the development of an aggressive lymphoproliferative disorder (adult T cell leukemia), a chronic neurodegenerative presentation (HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis) and numerous less well-defined inflammatory conditions. The viral regulatory protein Tax has been implicated in cellular transformation events leading to the onset of adult T cell leukemia. Details on the stepwise processes through which Tax induces morphological changes in cells are poorly understood. We show here that Tax can bind to a class of intermediate filaments, the cytokeratins (Ker). Tax interacts with the 1B helical coil of keratin 8, a domain critical for higher-order intermediate filament matrix formation. Expression of Tax in epithelial cells visibly altered the structural pattern of the Ker network. In a T lymphocyte cell line, induction of Tax expression resulted in increased cellular adherence/invasion of Matrigel filters. We propose that one aspect of Tax function is the induction of morphological changes in cellular cytoskeletal structures. This finding for Tax-expressing cells might be one factor contributing directly to the pathogenesis of HTLV-I disease(s). Copyright 1997 S. Karger AG, Basel