PLoS pathogens

Hijacking of the O-GlcNAcZYME complex by the HTLV-1 Tax oncoprotein facilitates viral transcription.

PMID 28742148


The viral Tax oncoprotein plays a key role in both Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)-replication and HTLV-1-associated pathologies, notably adult T-cell leukemia. Tax governs the transcription from the viral 5'LTR, enhancing thereby its own expression, via the recruitment of dimers of phosphorylated CREB to cAMP-response elements located within the U3 region (vCRE). In addition to phosphorylation, CREB is also the target of O-GlcNAcylation, another reversible post-translational modification involved in a wide range of diseases, including cancers. O-GlcNAcylation consists in the addition of O-linked-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) on Serine or Threonine residues, a process controlled by two enzymes: O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT), which transfers O-GlcNAc on proteins, and O-GlcNAcase (OGA), which removes it. In this study, we investigated the status of O-GlcNAcylation enzymes in HTLV-1-transformed T cells. We found that OGA mRNA and protein expression levels are increased in HTLV-1-transformed T cells as compared to control T cell lines while OGT expression is unchanged. However, higher OGA production coincides with a reduction in OGA specific activity, showing that HTLV-1-transformed T cells produce high level of a less active form of OGA. Introducing Tax into HEK-293T cells or Tax-negative HTLV-1-transformed TL-om1 T cells is sufficient to inhibit OGA activity and increase total O-GlcNAcylation, without any change in OGT activity. Furthermore, Tax interacts with the OGT/OGA complex and inhibits the activity of OGT-bound OGA. Pharmacological inhibition of OGA increases CREB O-GlcNAcylation as well as HTLV-1-LTR transactivation by Tax and CREB recruitment to the LTR. Moreover, overexpression of wild-type CREB but not a CREB protein mutated on a previously described O-GlcNAcylation site enhances Tax-mediated LTR transactivation. Finally, both OGT and OGA are recruited to the LTR. These findings reveal the interplay between Tax and the O-GlcNAcylation pathway and identify new key molecular actors involved in the assembly of the Tax-dependent transactivation complex.