- Open Access
Critical role of hnRNP A1 in HTLV-1 replication in human transformed T lymphocytes
© Kress et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 01 October 2004
Accepted: 09 February 2005
Published: 09 February 2005
In this study, we have examined the role of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNP A1) in viral gene expression in T lymphocytes transformed by HTLV-1.
We have previously observed that hnRNP A1 (A1) down-modulates the post transcriptional activity of Rex protein of HTLV-1. Here, we tested whether the ectopic expression of a dominant negative mutant (NLS-A1-HA) defective in shuttling activity or knockdown of the hnRNPA1 gene using RNA interference could inhibit Rex-mediated export of viral mRNAs in HTLV-1 producing C91PL T-cells. We show that the expression of NLS-A1-HA does not modify the export of Rex-dependent viral mRNAs. Conversely, inhibiting A1 expression in C91PL cells by RNA interference provoked an increase in the Rex-dependent export of unspliced and singly spliced mRNAs. Surprisingly, we also observed a significant increase in proviral transcription and an accumulation of unspliced mRNAs, suggesting that the splicing process was affected. Finally, A1 knockdown in C91PL cells increased viral production by these cells. Thus, hnRNP A1 is implicated in the modulation of the level of HTLV-1 gene expression in T cells transformed by this human retrovirus.
These observations provide an insight into a new cellular control of HTLV-1 replication and suggest that hnRNP A1 is likely part of the regulatory mechanisms of the life cycle of this human retrovirus in T cells.
The human T cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus type 1 is the etiologic agent of adult T cell leukemia (ATL), an aggressive and fatal leukemia of CD4+ T lymphocytes [1, 2] and is also associated with a neurological demyelinating disease, tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP) or HTLV-I associated myelopathy (HAM). Infection by HTLV-1 transforms T cells in vitro and in vivo, a process that has been associated with upregulation of specific cellular genes involved in T cell activation and proliferation during the course of viral infection [4–6]. The completion of the replication cycle of HTLV-1 leading to the production of new particles is dependent on two non-structural HTLV-1 encoded regulatory proteins, Tax and Rex, which act at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels, respectively [7, 8]. The 40-kDa Tax protein trans-activates transcription of the provirus, through its interaction with cellular transcription factors and with Tax response elements present in the 5' long terminal repeat (LTR). The post-transcriptional activity of the 27-kDa Rex protein, an RNA-binding protein, is mediated by its interaction with the Rex response element (XRE) located on the U3/R region of the 3'LTR present on all viral transcripts . When expressed at a critical threshold, Rex is able to direct the cytoplasmic expression of unspliced gag-pol and singly-spliced env mRNAs, at the expense of the multiply-spiced tax/rex mRNA [10, 11]. We have recently reported that heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNP A1) interferes with the binding of Rex to the XRE, thus leading to a functional impairment of this viral protein .
The ubiquitously expressed hnRNP A1 is an abundant nuclear protein that participates in RNA processing, alternative splicing and chromosome maintenance as well as in the nucleocytoplasmic transport of mRNAs [13–18]. This protein contains two RNA-binding domains and a glycine-rich domain implicated in protein-protein interactions. Predominantly located in the nucleus, this cellular protein has the ability to shuttle continuously between the nucleus and the cytoplasm [19–21]. The signal that mediates both nuclear import and export has been identified as a 38-aa sequence, termed M9, located at the C-terminus of hnRNP A1, and is involved in the nucleo-cytoplasmic trafficking of mRNAs .
As indicated above, we have provided evidence that hnRNP A1 impairs the post-transcriptional regulation of HTLV-1 gene expression, by interfering with the binding of Rex to the XRE . In the present study, we first demonstrate that the mutation of a putative binding site of hnRNP A1 to the XRE leads to an increase of the post-transcriptional activity of Rex. Next, to further address the effect that hnRNP A1 might exert on viral replication in vivo, we elected to investigate its implication in HTLV-1 producing T cells. Two experimental approaches were implemented: impairment of the functional activity of the endogenous hnRNP A1 by ectopic expression of a dominant negative mutant and knockdown of the hnRNPAl gene expression using RNA interference (siRNA). We report that inhibition of hnRNP A1 expression and functionality were achieved, leading to an increase of viral transcription together with an increase of cytoplasmic expression of viral mRNAs and of viral production. These observations by providing insight into a new cellular control of HTLV-I replication, suggest that hnRNP A1 is likely part of the regulatory mechanisms of the life cycle of this human retrovirus.
A nucleus-localized shuttling-deficient hnRNP A1 mutant does not affect the post-transcriptional activity of Rex
Efficient inhibition of hnRNP A1 by retrovirus-delivered siRNAs
hnRNP A1 depletion in HTLV-1-producing T lymphocytes altered the transcriptional profile and increased the post-transcriptional activity of Rex
These results suggest that inhibition of hnRNP A1 in C91PL cells mainly correlates with a defect in the splicing of genomic mRNAs. The NER of the unspliced and singly spliced mRNAs was significantly higher in siRNA-treated cells than in control cells, whereas the cytoplasmic expression of tax/rex mRNAs, which is Rex-independent was not modified (Fig. 6C). As the nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of the former is Rex-dependent, these observations propose that the depletion of hnRNPAl correlates with an increase of Rex activity. Finally, whereas a flow cytometry analysis indicated a similar percentage of p19gag producing cells in siRNA-transduced C91PL cells and in control cells, the quantification of 19gag in the supernatant medium of siRNA-transduced cells revealed a 1.5-fold increase of the p19gag amount (1017 ± 26 pg/ml), compared to that in control cells (678 ± 104 pg/ml).
Collectively, these data support that the hnRNP A1 depletion in HTLV-1-producing T cells increases viral transcription, is correlated with a defect in the splicing process at the level of the gag/pol transcript and increases the post-transcriptional activity of Rex leading to an increase of viral production.
The ubiquitously expressed hnRNP A1, an RNA-binding protein, is a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling hnRNP that accompanies eukaryotic mRNAs from the active site of transcription to that of translation. As such, hnRNP A1 is involved in a variety of important cellular functions, including RNA splicing, transport, turnover and translation. We have previously shown that hnRNP A1 decreases the post-transcriptional activity of the Rex protein of HTLV-1, by interfering with the binding of the viral protein on its response element, present on the 3' LTR of all viral RNAs. Here we first report that the mutation of a putative binding site of hnRNP A1 in the XRE enhances the functional activity of Rex. This observation obtained through transient transfection experiments, confirms that A1 proteins could antagonize the post-transcriptional activity of Rex, by a competitive mechanism.
We have next investigated the role of hnRNP A1 in HTLV-1 transformed C91PL cells, which produce HTLV-1 virions. These express the three differentially spliced (the unspliced gag/pol, the singly spliced env and the doubly spliced tax/rex) mRNAs, which encode the structural and regulatory proteins. The gag/pol and env mRNAs are dependent on Rex for their cytoplasmic expression. To determine whether hnRNP A1 interferes with viral replication, we first examined the effect of the ectopic expression of an hnRNP A1 mutant (NLS-A1-HA) defective in nuclear export activity. This mutant was previously used to assess the potential role of hnRNP A1 in nucleocytoplasmic shuttling activity in normal and leukemic myelopoiesis. Interestingly it was found that the ectopic expression of this dominant negative form of hnRNP A1 resulted in the downmodulation of the nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of cellular mRNAs that encode proteins affecting the phenotype of normal and transformed myeloid progenitors . In the present study, we showed that NLS-A1-HA- C91PL cells expressed a higher level of total viral transcripts than that observed in control cells, suggesting that the ectopic expression of this hnRNP A1 mutant correlated with an increased proviral transcription and/or stability of the viral RNA.
Furthermore, no modification of the nuclear export rate was observed in the NLS-A1-HA-transduced C91PL cells, indicating that the activity of Rex was not impaired. Finally, as both endogenous hnRNP A1 and the NLS-A1-HA mutant, which are nucleus-localized and consequently able to access the XRE did not decrease the Rex-dependent nucleo-cytoplasmic expression of the viral mRNAs, we should therefore speculate that the simultaneous presence of both types of A1 forbids them to bind the XRE with maximal efficiency. Interestingly, the increase of p19gag produced by the NLS-A1-HA C91PL cells suggests that the retention of the endogenous hnRNP A1 in the nucleus is favouring an increase in the translation of viral mRNAs
We have then proceeded to the knockdown of hnRNP A1 gene using the retrovirus-mediated RNA interference. This system was first validated in transduction experiments performed in Jurkat T cells. A puromycin-selected population of cells was obtained in which a strong overall specific reduction of hnRNP A1 was observed. Note that this hnRNP A1-depleted Jurkat cells were not affected in their growth even for a long time culture (data not shown). This is consistent with other studies showing that si-RNA-mediated reduction in A1 levels did not affect cell division nor provoke cell death in normal cell lines .
We next performed siRNA depletion of hnRNP A1 in C91PL cells and have observed a significant increase in proviral transcription, as demonstrated by the higher level of viral transcripts than that in control cells (Figure 6A). Furthermore, the level of unspliced transcripts was found to be predominant, compared to the singly-and doubly-spliced transcripts, in the hnRNP A1 depleted cells, pleading for a splicing default (Fig. 6B). Finally, the increase of the nuclear export of unspliced and singly spliced mRNAs suggests that the knockdown of hnRNP A1 allows a better accessibility of Rex to the XRE and leads to the enhancement of the post- transcriptional activity of Rex. This is in good correlation with the increase in the production of viral particles, as ascertained by the quantification of the p19gag protein. Since hnRNP A1 has been implicated in nuclear export of cellular mature mRNAs  as well as translational and/or posttranslational events of viral mRNAs (our study), it is possible that its depletion could affect the expression of several transcription and/or splicing factors, leading to an effect, for instance, on the splicing process of viral mRNAs.
Of the two experimental approaches used in the present study to apprehend the implication of hnRNP A1 on HTLV-1 replication in in vitro HTLV-1-transformed T-cells, that consisting in the depletion of this cellular protein by RNA interference provides evidence for the role of hnRNP A1 in restraining the viral life cycle at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. We conclude from these findings that down-regulation of hnRNP A1 has an important role on the replicative potential of HTLV-1 in T lymphocytes. Consequently, these data allows us to define hnRNP A1 as a cellular protein endowed with an anti-HTLV-1 activity.
pRS construct directing the synthesis of siRNA and Plasmids
The vector pRetro-SUPER (pRS) was used to generate biologically active siRNAs from the Pol III H1-RNA gene promoter . Two annealed 64-bp synthetic oligonucleotides were used: 5'-gatccccAGCAAGAGATGGCTAGTGCttcaagagaGCACTAGCCATCTCTTGCTtttttgga aa-3', and 5'-gatccccCAGCTGAGGAAGCTCTTCAttcaagagaTGAAGAGCTTCCTCAGCTGtttttgga aa-3'. The sequence of each oligonucleotide was designed (Oligoengine) to encode two 19-nt (in capital letters) reverse complements homologous to a portion of hnRNP A1 (nucleotides 34–53 for the first construct, and nucleotides 548–567 for the second one) separated by a 9-nt spacer region, and ending by Bgl II and Hind III sites. Each oligonucleotide was then introduced into pRS resulting in either pRS-siRNA+34 or pRS-siRNA+548 retroviral vectors, respectively. Plasmids pgagpol/MLV and EnvVSV-G were kindly provided by F.L. Cosset (U412-Lyon). LXSP-NLS-A1-HA and empty LXSP retroviral vectors were a kind gift of D. Perrotti and has been described previously [23, 24].
For reporter gene analyses, the luciferase plasmid (CMV/XRE) was derived from the reporter plasmid pDM138 containing the CAT gene and the XRE sequences . It expresses, under the control of the cytomegalovirus promoter, a two-exon, one-intron precursor RNA in which the luc gene and the XRE are located within the intron (see Fig. 1B). The mutant plasmid (CMV/mutXRE) was generated using a site-directed mutagenesis kit (Stratagene) according to the manufacturer's instructions, and with the following primer, 5'-AAAGCCCTGTCAAAACAGGAAATGGCAAGCGCTTCATCCAGCC-3'. This construct was verified by DNA sequencing before use in transfection. The rex-expression plasmid, containing the wild type Rex sequence under the control of the cytomegalovirus promoter, was a gift from B.C. Cullen.
Cell culture and DNA transfection
Jurkat lymphoblastoid T-cells were incubated at 37°C in a 5% CO2 atmosphere, in RPMI-1640 medium (Invitrogen) supplemented with 10% heat-inactivated fetal calf serum (FCS) and 20 IU/ml penicillin, 20 μg/ml streptomycin. The HTLV-1-transformed T-cell line, C91PL  was cultured in complete RPMI medium. The human epithelial 293T cells and the human rhabdomyosarcoma TE cellswere cultured in Dulbecco's minimum eagle medium (DMEM, Invitrogen) supplemented with 10% FCS and 20 IU/ml penicillin, 20 μg/ml streptomycin. These cells seeded at 1.2 × 105 cells per well of a 12-well plate were transfected using the calcium phosphate coprecipitation technique . Jurkat cells were transfected by using the X-treme GENE Q2 transfection reagent (Roche Molecular Biochemicals) according to the manufacturer's indications. The amount of plasmid used in each transfection assay is indicated in the figure legends. To assess the efficiency of the transfection assay, 10 ng of the tk-renilla Luciferase plasmid (Promega) were co-transfected in each assay. Cells were harvested 24 h after transfection, resuspended in 100 μl of passive lysis buffer (Promega) and assayed for both firefly and renilla luciferases by using a Dual-Luciferase Reporter assay system (Promega).
Preparation of viral stocks and transduction of T cells
Fresh viral stocks were prepared by transfecting 293T cells (seeded at 5 × 105 cell/well of a 6-well plate) with 2 μg of pRS or pRS-siRNA together with 1 μg of pgag-pol/MLV and 0,45 μg of env/VSV-G with ExGen 500 reagent (Euromedex). Twelve hours later, the cells were washed once with PBS, and newly produced virions were harvested over 24 h in 1,5 ml of fresh medium. Viral supernatants were clarifed by passage through a 0.45-μm syringe filter and aliquots were stored at -80°C. Titers of virus stocks were determined by infecting rhabdomyosarcoma human TE cells (60% confluent) with serially diluted viral stocks. After infection, cells were split and plated in the presence of puromycin (5 μg/ml); puromycin-resistant colonies were scored after 7 days. Virus titers generally ranged from 3 to 5 × 105 transducing units per ml.
Transduction of Jurkat or of C91 PL T cells with retroviral vectors was carried out as followed: briefly, cells (1 × 106) plated in a 24-well plate were infected at a multiplicity of infection (moi) of 5 with viral stocks in a final volume of 1.0 ml containing 4 μg of polybrene/ml, for 18 h and allowed to recover for 24 hr with fresh medium. When necessary, transduced cells were selected with puromycin 4–5 μg/ml for 4 days and maintained in culture for long time period with 1 μg/ml puromycin.
RNA isolation and real time quantitative RT-PCR
Nuclear and cytoplasmic RNAs were extracted from 2 × 106 cells by using an Rneasy RNA-preparation kit (Qiagen) according to the manufacturer's instructions. To reduce the amount of DNA originating from lysis, samples were treated with Rnase-free Dnase (10 U/μl, Boehringer) for 30 min at 20°C and then for 15 min at 65°C. 500 ng of RNA sample were reverse transcribed by using oligo(dT)12–18 and Superscript II (Life Technologies, Inc.). Reverse transcription was performed for 50 min at 42°C. The total cDNA volume of 20 μl was frozen until real-time quantitative PCR was performed. After thawing for PCR experiments, the cDNA was diluted in distilled water and 2 μl of diluted cDNA was used for each PCR reaction. The realtime quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR) was performed in special lightcycler capillaries (Roche) with a lightcycler Instrument (Roche), by using the LightCycler-FastStart reaction Mix SYBR-Green kit (Roche). The following specific primers were used to detect: hnRNP A1, sense 5'-AAGCAATTTTGGAGGTGGTG-3' and antisens, 5'-ATAGCCACCTTGGTTTCGTG-3', gag/polHTLV-1sense, 5'-CCCTCCAGTTACGATTTCCA-3' and antisens, 5'-GGCTTGGGTTTGGATGAGTA-3', envHTLV-1sense, 5'-CTGTGGTGCCTCCTGAACT-3' and antisens, 5'-AAAGTGGCGAGAAACTTACCC-3', pXIII sense, 5'-ATCCCGTGGAGACTCCTCAA-3' and antisens, 5'-CCAAACACGTAGACTGGGTATCC-3'. β-actin sense,5'-TGAGCTGCGTGTGGCTCC-3' and antisens: 5'-GGCATGGGGGAGGGCATACC-3'.
The thermal cycling conditions consisted of 40 cycles at 95°C for 10 sec, 61°C for 5 sec, 72°C for 10 sec. The fluorescence signal increase of SYBR-GREEN was automatically detected during the 72°C phase of the PCR. Omission of reverse transcriptase in the RT-PCR protocol led to a failure of target gene amplification in the positive controls. Light cycler PCR data were analyzed using LightCycler Data software (Idaho Technology). The software first normalizes each sample by background subtraction of initial cycles. A fluorescence threshold is then set at 5% full scale, and the software determines the cycle number at which each sample reached this threshold. The fluorescence threshold cycle number correlates inversely with the log of initial template concentration. β-actin transcript levels were used to normalize the amount of cDNA in each sample. Melting curve profiles were used to confirm amplification of specific transcripts.
Cells were washed and harvested in ice-cold PBS containing protease inhibitors (complete mini EDTA-free, Roche Molecular Biochemicals). Cells were lysed in RIPA buffer (150 mM NaCI, 50 mM Tris-HCI pH 8.0, 0.5% deoxycholate, 0.1% SDS, 0.5% Nonidet P-40, protease inhibitors, 80 U/ml endonuclease) and incubated for 30 min at 4°C. After centrifugation at 12,000 rpm for 10 min at 4°C, the supernatant was assayed for protein content by Bradford assay (Bio-Rad). Equal amounts of proteins were separated by SDS/PAGE.
Cells were lysed in Laemmli buffer and equal amounts of proteins were subjected to 12% SDS-PAGE. They were subsequently blotted onto nitrocellulose membrane (BA, Schleicher & Schuell). The membrane was then blocked overnight at 4°C in blocking buffer (PBS and 0.1% Tween-20) supplemented 10% non-fat powdered milk and probed with the appropriate antibody diluted in blocking buffer plus 10% non-fat powdered milk. The following antibodies were used: rabbit anti-actin (Sigma), mouse anti-ASF/SF2 (gift from Dr. J. Stevenin) mouse monoclonal anti-hnRNP A1 and anti-hnRNP C antibodies (4B10 and 4F4, respectively; gifts from G. Dreyfuss), followed with an anti-rabbit (Immunotech, France) or anti-mouse (Dako) Immunoglobulin G-horse radish peroxidase-conjugated antibody. Blots were then developed using an enhanced chemiluminescence detection system (Renaissance, NEN, Life Science Products). Bands were visualized by using Hyperfilm (Amersham Pharmacia Biotech).
Flow cytometric analysis and Immunostaining
Cells (5 × 105) were washed twice with PBS, resuspended in 3% (vol/vol) paraformaldehyde/PBS for 45 min at room temperature, and permeabilized with 0.5% Triton X-100/PBS for 5 min. After washing with PBS, the cells were incubated with specific antibodies (4B10) diluted in 1% BSA/PBS for 1 h. Cells were washed twice with PBS and were then incubated with FITC-conjugated goat anti-mouse, PE-conjugated goat anti-rabbit in 1% BSA/PBS for 40 min. Cells were washed three times with PBS and resuspended in a 2% paraformaldehyde/PBS solution. The fluorescence intensity was measured on a FACScan instrument (Becton Dickinson Labware, Mountain View, Calif;). The integrated fluorescence of the gated population was measured, and data from 10,000 analyzed events were collected.
For immunostaining, C91PL cells were centrifuged on cytoslides using a cytospin (Thermo Shandon, Pittsburgh, PA), fixed on slides with 3.7% paraformaldehyde for 15 min at room temperature, and permeabilized with 0.5% Triton X100 for 5 min in 4°C. The samples were saturated with PBS containing 0.5% gelatin and 0.25% bovine serum albumin for 1 h and stained for 1 h with a 1/100 dilution of a rabbit polyclonal serum directed against HA (Y11 from Santa Cruz Biotechnology) (NLS-A1-HA staining) or 1/1000 dilution of mouse monoclonal antibodies (4B10) (hnRNP A1 staining) in the same saturation solution. The samples were then washed three times with PBS containing 0.25% gelatin and incubated for 1 h with a 1/100 dilution of the following secondary antibodies: goat anti-rabbit immunoglobulin G conjugated to fluorescein isothiocyanate (green color for HA) and goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin G conjugated to lissamine rhodamine sulfchloride (red color for hnRNP A1) (Jackson Immunoresearch). The samples were washed three times in PBS with 0.25% gelatin and mounted for analysis on a Zeiss LSM 510 laser scanning confocal microscope.
p19gag was measured in culture medium using the RETROTEK HTLV p19 Antigen ELISA kit (Zeptometrix). Medium of the cell culture was centrifuged at low speed to remove the cell debris, and filtrated through a 0,45-μm filter. The amount of Gag protein was quantified in the resultant supernatant according to the manufacturer procedure. Results are expressed as pg/ml of p19 protein and are the mean of two different experiments, each point tested in quadruplicate.
HHB is a recipient of a grant of "Fond National de la Recherche Scientifique-Télévie". This study was supported in part by INSERM in the frame of "Coopération franco-beige" INSERM/CFB/FNRS 2003 and by ARC (Association pour la Recherche sur le cancer n°5669 to L.G.).
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