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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02439

Collagen IV (COL4A1, COL4A2), a component of the viral biofilm, is induced by the HTLV-1 oncoprotein Tax and impacts virus transmission

  • 1Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology, University Hospital Erlangen, Germany
  • 2UMR9004 Institut de Recherche en Infectiologie de Montpellier (IRIM), France

Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the etiologic agent for Adult T-Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL) and HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP). HTLV-1 infects CD4+ T-cells via cell-to-cell transmission requiring reorganization of the cytoskeleton and expression of the viral transactivator and oncoprotein Tax. Viruses spread at the virological synapse (VS), a virus-induced specialized cell-cell contact, by polarized budding into synaptic clefts, and by cell surface transfer of viral biofilms (VBs). Since little is known about Tax’s role in formation of the VB, we asked which component of the VB is regulated by Tax and important for HTLV-1 transmission. Collagens are not only structural proteins of the extracellular matrix and basal membrane but also represent an important component of the VB. Here, we report that among the collagens known to be present in VBs, COL4 is specifically upregulated in the presence of HTLV-1 infection. Further, we found that transient expression of Tax is sufficient to induce COL4A1 and COL4A2 transcripts in Jurkat and CCRF-CEM T-cells, while robust induction of COL4 protein requires continuous Tax expression as shown in Tax-transformed T-cell lines. Repression of Tax led to a significant reduction of COL4A1/A2 transcripts and COL4 protein. Mechanistically, luciferase-based promoter studies indicate that Tax activates the COL4A2 and, to a less extent, the COL4A1 promoter. Imaging showing partial co-localization of COL4 with the viral Gag protein in VBs at the VS and transfer of COL4 and Gag to target cells suggests a role of COL4 in VB formation. Strikingly, in chronically infected C91-PL cells, knockout of COL4A2 impaired Gag transfer between infected T-cells and acceptor T-cells, while release of virus-like particles was unaffected. Taken together, we identified COL4 (COL4A1, COL4A2) as a component of the VB and a novel cellular target of Tax with COL4A2 appearing to impact virus transmission. Thus, this study is the first to provide a link between Tax’s activity and VB formation by hijacking COL4 protein functions.

Keywords: HTLV-1, TAX 1, virus transmission, Collagen 4, collagen IV, COL4A1, COL4A2, Viral biofilm

Received: 31 May 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Millen, Gross, Donhauser, Mann, Péloponèse and Thoma-Kress. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Andrea K. Thoma-Kress, Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology, University Hospital Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany,