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Cancer-causing virus exploits key cell-survival proteins

COLUMBUS, Ohio A cancer-causing retrovirus exploits key proteins in its host cells to extend the life of those cells, thereby prolonging its own survival and ability to spread, according to a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC James) and Ohio State's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The human T-lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1), which causes adult T-cell leukemia and lymphoma, produces a protein called p30 that is essential for the retrovirus to establish an infection. This study found that this viral protein targets two important cell proteins: ATM, a key player in a cell's response to DNA damage, and REG-gamma, which marks proteins within the cell for destruction.

"Our findings suggest that the p30 viral protein prolongs the survival of host cells through this interaction with ATM and REG-gamma, and the longer a virus-infected cell survives, the better chance the virus has to spread, " says principal investigator Michael Lairmore, DVM, PhD, professor of veterinary biosciences and associate director for shared resources at the OSUCCC James.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

An estimated 20 million people worldwide are infected by HTLV-1, and about five percent of them will develop adult T-cell leukemia or lymphoma, or one of a variety of inflammatory disorders.

Lairmore and his colleagues used cell lines and a variety of biochemical assays to identify cellular binding partners of p30. They discovered the following:

  • p30 specifically binds to cellular ATM (ataxia-telangiectasia mutated), a key regulator of DNA damage responses and cell cycle control, and to REG-gamma, a nuclear proteasome activator.
  • Under stressful conditions, p30 levels are associated with lower ATM levels and increased cell survival.
  • The expression of p30 changes in concert with expression of REG-gamma, suggesting that overexpression of REG-gamma enhances levels of p30.
  • p30 forms a complex with ATM and REG-gamma.


Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Ohio State University Medical Center

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