Researchers find viral protein that mimics its way into cells

COLUMBUS, Ohio Researchers unraveling the biochemistry of a cancer-causing retrovirus here have found a protein produced by the virus that has an uncanny resemblance to a key cell protein found in certain immune cells that helps control calcium signaling.

The scientists believe that HTLV-1 (human T-lymphotrophic virus-1) uses its protein called p12 to help change these immune cells from a normal resting state to an active state, thereby speeding up cell division which, in turn, replicates the virus.

If confirmed, the finding could provide valuable insight into just how retroviruses overwhelm the human immune system. The study is reported in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The trail leading to this finding began with some little-understood pieces of the HTLV-1 genome. Viruses often have specific genes that produce specific proteins that start, stop or regulate processes in the cell to allow the virus to reproduce.

The researchers here focused on one particular motif, or portion of the protein p12, that contains an amino acid sequence similar to a well-known cell protein called Nuclear Factor of Activated T-cells, of NFAT. Their earlier research had proved that in animals where the virus lacked the gene that makes

Contact: Michael Lairmore
Ohio State University

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