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Viral protein influences key cell-signaling pathway

New research shows that a protein produced by a cancer-causing virus influences a key signaling pathway in the immune cells that the virus infects. This stimulates the cells to divide, helping the virus spread through the body.

The study, led by researchers at Ohio State University, examined the human T lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and a protein that it produces called p12.

The research is published in the April issue of the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.

The study found that p12 increases the activity of an important gene in host cells. That gene controls production of a cell protein called p300. The p300 protein, in turn, controls a variety of other genes in many types of cells, including T lymphocytes, the cells that HTLV-1 infects.

The findings might help scientists better understand how HTLV-1 maintains its lifelong infection and how the normal immune cells that "remember" a vaccination or an infection can survive for years or even decades.

"The p300 protein is an important central regulator of gene activity in lymphocytes and many other kinds of cells," says Michael Lairmore, professor and chair of veterinary biosciences and a member of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center ?Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. "We were surprised to see p300 show-up among the many genes affected by this viral protein."

HTLV-1 infects an estimated 15 to 20 million people worldwide. In about five percent of them, the infection will lead to adult T cell leukemia or lymphoma (ATLL). ATLL is an aggressive disease characterized by a long latent period and the proliferation of T lymphocytes. The virus is spread by sexual activity, by contact with infected blood and by infected women to children through breast milk.

HTLV-1, like its cousin HIV, inserts its genetic information permanently into the DNA of a T lymphocyte and remains there for the life of the cell. HTLV-1 infecti
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Source:Ohio State University


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