HTLV-1 p13, a small protein with a busy agenda

Micol Silic-Benussi, Roberta Biasiotto, Vibeke Andresen, Genoveffa Franchini, Donna M. D'Agostino, Vincenzo Ciminale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection is characterized by life-long persistence of the virus in the host. While most infected individuals remain asymptomatic, 3-5% will eventually develop adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) or tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM) after a clinical latency that can span years (TSP/HAM) to decades (ATLL). The major oncogenic determinant among HTLV-1 proteins is the Tax transactivator, which influences the expression and function of a great number of cellular proteins, drives cell proliferation, reduces cell death, and induces genetic instability.The present review is focused on the current knowledge of p13, an HTLV-1 accessory protein targeted to the inner mitochondrial membrane and, under certain conditions, to the nucleus. In mitochondria, p13 produces an inward K+. current that results in an increased production of ROS by mitochondria. These effects are linked to the protein's effects on cell turnover which include activation of primary T-cells and reduced proliferation/sensitization to death of tumor cells. Recent findings suggest that in the presence of Tax, p13 is subjected to ubiquitylation and partly targeted to the nucleus. Nuclear p13 binds Tax and inhibits its transcriptional activity. These findings suggest that the protein might exert distinct functions depending on its intracellular localization and influence both the turnover of infected cells and the balance between viral latency and productive infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-358
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Aspects of Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • HTLV-1
  • K+ channel
  • Leukemia
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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