Novel Interactions between the Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1 Antisense Protein HBZ and the SWI/SNF Chromatin Remodeling Family: Implications for Viral Life Cycle

J Virol. 2019 Jul 30;93(16):e00412-19. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00412-19. Print 2019 Aug 15.


The human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) regulatory proteins Tax and HBZ play indispensable roles in regulating viral and cellular gene expression. BRG1, the ATPase subunit of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex, has been demonstrated to be essential not only for Tax transactivation but also for viral replication. We sought to investigate the physical interaction between HBZ and BRG1 and to determine the effect of these interactions on Tax-mediated long terminal repeat (LTR) activation. We reveal that HTLV-1 cell lines and adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) cells harbor high levels of BRG1. Using glutathione S-transferase (GST) pulldown and coimmunoprecipitation assays, we have demonstrated physical interactions between BRG1 and HBZ and characterized the protein domains involved. Moreover, we have identified the PBAF signature subunits BAF200 and BAF180 as novel interaction partners of HBZ, suggesting that the PBAF complex may be required for HTLV-1 transcriptional repression by HBZ. Additionally, we found that BRG1 expression translocates HBZ into distinct nuclear foci. We show that HBZ substantially represses HTLV-1 LTR activation by Tax/BRG1. Interestingly, we found that Tax stabilizes the expression of exogenous and endogenous BRG1 and that HBZ reverses this effect. Finally, using a chromatin immunoprecipitation-quantitative PCR (ChIP-qPCR) assay, we illustrate that HBZ facilitates the downregulation of HTLV-1 transcription by deregulating the recruitment of SWI/SNF complexes to the promoter. Overall, we conclude that SWI/SNF complexes, in addition to other cellular transcription factors, are involved in HBZ-mediated suppression of HTLV-1 viral gene expression.IMPORTANCE The pathogenic potential of HTLV-1 is linked to the indispensable multifaceted functions of the viral regulatory proteins Tax and HBZ, encoded by the sense and antisense viral transcripts, respectively. The interaction between Tax and the SWI/SNF family of chromatin remodeling complexes has been associated with HTLV-1 transcriptional activation. To date, the relationship between the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling family and HBZ, the only viral protein that is consistently expressed in infected cells and ATL cells, has not been elucidated. Here, we have characterized the biological significance of the SWI/SNF family in regard to viral transcriptional repression by HBZ. This is important because it provides a better understanding of the function and role of HBZ in downregulating viral transcription and, hence, its contribution to viral latency and persistence in vivo, a process that may ultimately lead to the development of ATL.

Keywords: BRG1; HBZ; HTLV-1; PBAF; SWI/SNF; Tax; leukemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • DNA Helicases / chemistry
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Gene Products, tax / metabolism
  • HTLV-I Infections / virology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Retroviridae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Terminal Repeat Sequences
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Virus Replication*


  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Gene Products, tax
  • HBZ protein, human T-cell leukemia virus type I
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Retroviridae Proteins
  • SWI-SNF-B chromatin-remodeling complex
  • Transcription Factors
  • tax protein, Human T-lymphotrophic virus 1
  • SMARCA4 protein, human
  • DNA Helicases