Human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1) encodes a mitochondrial protein named p13. p13 mediates an inward K(+) current in isolated mitochondria that leads to mitochondrial swelling, depolarization, increased respiratory chain activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. These effects trigger the opening of the permeability transition pore and are dependent on the presence of K(+) and on the amphipathic alpha helical domain of p13. In the context of cells, p13 acts as a sensitizer to selected apoptotic stimuli. Although it is not known whether p13 influences the activity of endogenous K(+) channels or forms a channel itself, it shares some structural and functional analogies with viroporins, a class of small integral membrane proteins that form pores and alter membrane permeability.
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