Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) is a complex retrovirus that belongs to the Deltaretrovirus genus, which also includes Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Both viruses contain an X region coding for at least four proteins: Tax and Rex, which are involved in transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation, respectively, and the accessory proteins R3 and G4 (for BLV) and p12I, p13II, and p30II (for HTLV-1). The present study was aimed at characterizing the subcellular localization of BLV R3 and G4. The results of immunofluorescence experiments on transfected HeLa Tat cells demonstrated that R3 is located in the nucleus and in cellular membranes, as previously reported for HTLV-1 p12I. In contrast, G4, like p13II, is localized both in the nucleus and in mitochondria. In addition, we have shown that G4 harbors a mitochondrial targeting signal consisting of a hydrophobic region and an amphipathic α-helix. Thus, despite a lack of significant primary sequence homology, R3 and p12I and G4 and p13II exhibit similar targeting properties, suggesting possible overlap in their functional properties.
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