HTLV-1 tax protects against CD95-mediated apoptosis by induction of the cellular FLICE-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP)

Krueger A, Fas SC, Giaisi M, Bleumink M, Merling A, Stumpf C, Baumann S, Holtkotte D, Bosch V, Krammer PH and Li-Weber M
Source: Blood
Publication Date: (2006)
Issue: 107(10): 3933-9
Research Area:
Immunotherapy / Hematology
Cells used in publication:
Species: human
Tissue Origin: blood
Species: human
Tissue Origin:
Nucleofector® I/II/2b
The HTLV-1 transactivator protein Tax is essential for malignant transformation of CD4 T cells, ultimately leading to adult T cell leukemia (ATL). Malignant transformation may involve development of apoptosis resistance. In this study we investigated the molecular mechanisms by which HTLV-1 Tax confers resistance towards CD95-mediated apoptosis. We show that Tax expressing T cell lines derived from HTLV-1 infected patients express elevated levels of c-FLIPL and c-FLIPS. The levels of c-FLIP correlated with resistance towards CD95-mediated apoptosis. Using an inducible system we demonstrated that both resistance towards CD95-mediated apoptosis and induction of c-FLIP are dependent on Tax. In addition, analysis of early cleavage of the BH3-only Bcl-2 family member Bid, a direct caspase-8 substrate, revealed that apoptosis is inhibited at a CD95 death receptor proximal level in Tax-expressing cells. Finally, using siRNA we directly showed that c-FLIP confers Tax-mediated resistance towards CD95-mediated apoptosis. In conclusion, our data suggest an important mechanism by which expression of HTLV-1 Tax may lead to immune escape of infected T cells and, thus, to persistent infection and transformation.