Nuclear export and expression of human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 tax/rex mRNA are RxRE/Rex dependent

J Virol. 2012 Apr;86(8):4559-65. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06361-11. Epub 2012 Feb 8.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a complex retrovirus associated with the lymphoproliferative disease adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) and the neurodegenerative disorder tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM). Replication of HTLV-1 is under the control of two major trans-acting proteins, Tax and Rex. Previous studies suggested that Tax activates transcription from the viral long terminal repeat (LTR) through recruitment of cellular CREB and transcriptional coactivators. Other studies reported that Rex acts posttranscriptionally and allows the cytoplasmic export of unspliced or incompletely spliced viral mRNAs carrying gag/pol and env only. As opposed to HIV's Rev-responsive element (RRE), the Rex-responsive element (RxRE) is present in all viral mRNAs in HTLV-1. However, based on indirect observations, it is believed that nuclear export and expression of the doubly spliced tax/rex RNA are Rex independent. In this study, we demonstrate that Rex does stimulate Tax expression, through nuclear-cytoplasmic export of the tax/rex RNA, even though a Rex-independent basal export mechanism exists. This effect was dependent upon the RxRE element and the RNA-binding activity of Rex. In addition, Rex-mediated export of tax/rex RNA was CRM1 dependent and inhibited by leptomycin B treatment. RNA immunoprecipitation (RNA-IP) experiments confirmed Rex binding to the tax/rex RNA in both transfected cells with HTLV-1 molecular clones and HTLV-1-infected T cells. Since both Rex and p30 interact with the tax/rex RNA and with one another, this may offer a temporal and dynamic regulation of HTLV-1 replication. Our results shed light on HTLV-1 replication and reveal a more complex regulatory network than previously anticipated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Nucleolus / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Gene Order
  • Gene Products, rex / genetics*
  • Gene Products, rex / metabolism
  • Gene Products, tax / genetics*
  • Gene Products, tax / metabolism
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / genetics*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*


  • Gene Products, rex
  • Gene Products, tax
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral