Epigenomic regulation of human T-cell leukemia virus by chromatin-insulator CTCF

PLoS Pathog. 2021 May 21;17(5):e1009577. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1009577. eCollection 2021 May.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a retrovirus that causes an aggressive T-cell malignancy and a variety of inflammatory conditions. The integrated provirus includes a single binding site for the epigenomic insulator, CCCTC-binding protein (CTCF), but its function remains unclear. In the current study, a mutant virus was examined that eliminates the CTCF-binding site. The mutation did not disrupt the kinetics and levels of virus gene expression, or establishment of or reactivation from latency. However, the mutation disrupted the epigenetic barrier function, resulting in enhanced DNA CpG methylation downstream of the CTCF binding site on both strands of the integrated provirus and H3K4Me3, H3K36Me3, and H3K27Me3 chromatin modifications both up- and downstream of the site. A majority of clonal cell lines infected with wild type HTLV-1 exhibited increased plus strand gene expression with CTCF knockdown, while expression in mutant HTLV-1 clonal lines was unaffected. These findings indicate that CTCF binding regulates HTLV-1 gene expression, DNA and histone methylation in an integration site dependent fashion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • CCCTC-Binding Factor / genetics
  • CCCTC-Binding Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics
  • Genome, Viral / genetics*
  • HTLV-I Infections / virology*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / genetics*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / virology*
  • Mutation
  • Virus Integration
  • Virus Latency / genetics


  • CCCTC-Binding Factor
  • Chromatin