Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) spreads directly between lymphocytes and other cells via a specialized cell-cell contact, termed the virological synapse. The formation of the virological synapse is accompanied by the orientation of the microtubule-organizing center (MTOC) in the infected T cell toward the cell contact region with the noninfected target cell. We previously demonstrated that the combination of intracellular Tax protein expression and the stimulation of the intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) on the cell surface is sufficient to trigger MTOC polarization in the HTLV-1–infected T cell. However, the mechanism by which Tax and ICAM-1 cause the MTOC polarization is not fully understood. Here we show that the presence of Tax at the MTOC region and its ability to stimulate cyclic AMP-binding protein–dependent pathways are both required for MTOC polarization in the HTLV-1–infected T cell at the virological synapse. Furthermore, we show that the MTOC polarization induced by ICAM-1 engagement depends on activation of the Ras-MEK-ERK signaling pathway. Our findings indicate that efficient MTOC polarization at the virological synapse requires Tax-mediated stimulation of T-cell activation pathways in synergy with ICAM-1 cross-linking. The results also reveal differences in the signaling pathways used to trigger MTOC polarization between the immunologic synapse and the virological synapse.

  • Submitted March 7, 2008.
  • Accepted May 3, 2009.
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