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A critical role for IL-17RB signaling in HTLV-1 tax-induced NF-κB activation and T-cell transformation

Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection is linked to the development of adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and the neuroinflammatory disease HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The HTLV-1 Tax protein functions as a potent viral oncogene that constitutively activates the NF-κB transcription factor to transform T cells; however, the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. Here, using next-generation RNA sequencing we identified the IL-25 receptor subunit IL-17RB as an aberrantly over expressed gene in HTLV-1 immortalized T cells. Tax induced the expression of IL-17RB in an IκB kinase (IKK) and NF-κB-dependent manner. Remarkably, Tax activation of the canonical NF-κB pathway in T cells was critically dependent on IL-17RB expression. IL-17RB and IL-25 were required for HTLV-1-induced immortalization of primary T cells, and the constitutive NF-κB activation and survival of HTLV-1 transformed T cells. IL-9 was identified as an important downstream target gene of the IL-17RB pathway that drives the proliferation of HTLV-1 transformed cells. Furthermore, IL-17RB was over expressed in leukemic cells from a subset of ATL patients and also regulated NF-κB activation in some, but not all, Tax-negative ATL cell lines. Together, our results support a model whereby Tax instigates an IL-17RB-NF-κB feed-forward autocrine loop that is obligatory for HTLV-1 leukemogenesis.

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Correspondence to Alfonso Lavorgna.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Lavorgna, A., Matsuoka, M. & Harhaj, E.W. A critical role for IL-17RB signaling in HTLV-1 tax-induced NF-κB activation and T-cell transformation. Retrovirology 12 (Suppl 1), P52 (2015).

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