Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Biology and Biomedical Sciences: Molecular Genetics and Genomics


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Lee Ratner


Retroviruses have evolved complex mechanisms to regulate their cellular tropism and gene expression. It is generally accepted that productive infections proceed via interactions between viral envelope molecules and specific receptors on the host cell surface. Currently, there is no known receptor for HTLV-1, though a number of factors that enhance entry have been identified. In an effort to identify a cellular receptor or attachment factor for HTLV-1, we carried out a retroviral cDNA library screen, in which cDNA from permissive HeLa S3 cells was introduced into poorly susceptible NIH 3T3 cells. These cells were selected after infection with HTLV-1 envelope pseudotyped viral particles expressing a drug resistance gene. We isolated approximately 460 cDNAs, of which 20 were prioritized as potential candidates. These candidates are being tested to determine if they participate in viral entry. In addition to encoding the structural and enzymatic genes common to all retroviruses, HTLV-1 also encodes several accessory genes which contribute to viral replication and the maintenance of gene expression. A newly identified viral gene, HTLV-1 bZIP factor or hbz, has been shown to have pleiotropic effects as it functions differently in its protein and mRNA forms. In an effort to elucidate its role in HTLV-1 replication, we identified a novel function. Mutations that abrogated the hbz mRNA or disrupted a stem-loop in hbz mRNA, or mutations that eliminated or truncated the HBZ protein were introduced in a functional molecular clone of HTLV-1. The protein and stem-loop mutants had no effect on viral gene expression. However, the mutant that disrupted hbz mRNA expressed lower levels of tax mRNA, suggesting that hbz promotes tax expression. We found that this effect of hbz was indirect, as hbz represses another accessory gene, p30II, which is known to sequester tax mRNA in the nucleus. These results provide new insights into the regulation of HTLV-1 infection, specifically viral entry and gene expression.


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