Human T-cell leukemia virus type-I (HTLV-I) encodes for the viral protein Tax, which is known to significantly disrupt transcriptional control of cytokines, cytokine receptors and other immuno-modulatory proteins in T cells. Specific dysregulation of these factors can alter the course and pathogenesis of infection. Soluble interleukin-6 receptor (sIL-6R) was shown to circulate at elevated levels in HTLV-I-infected patients, and high expressions of IL-6R and sIL-6R by HTLV-I-infected T cells were clinically and experimentally associated with Tax activity. To examine roles of Tax in expression of the IL-6R gene, the JPX-9 cell line was used, which is derived from Jurkat cell line expressing Tax cDNA. Over-expression of Tax enhanced IL-6R expression but not in Tax mutant JPX-9/M cell line. The clinical relevance of these observations was further demonstrated by ELISA using sera obtained from HTLV-I-infected patients. Our results revealed that sIL-6R levels were apparently elevated in HAM/TSP patients who were expressing Tax in their cells, while ATL patients' cells barely expressed Tax. HTLV-I-infected T-cell lines stimulated by IL-6/sIL-6R showed gp130-mediated STAT3 activity. IL-6/sIL-6R enhanced proliferation of HTLV-I-infected T cells in association with activation of STAT3. Consequently, Tax-mediated regulations of IL-6R and sIL-6R observed in HTLV-I-associated disorders may contribute to proliferation of HTLV-I-infected T cells through activation of inducible STAT3, and ultimately affect malignant growth and transformation of T cells by HTLV-I.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.