JCPyV T-Antigen Activation of the Anti-Apoptotic Survivin Promoter—Its Role in the Development of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy

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Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a fatal demyelinating disease of the CNS, resulting from the lytic infection of oligodendrocytes by the human neurotropic polyomavirus JC (JCPyV), typically associated with severe immunocompromised states and, in recent years, with the use of immunotherapies. Apoptosis is a homeostatic mechanism to dispose of senescent or damaged cells, including virally infected cells, triggered in the vast majority of viral infections of the brain. Previously, we showed upregulation of the normally dormant anti-apoptotic protein Survivin in cases of PML, which-in vitro-resulted in protection from apoptosis in JCPyV-infected primary cultures of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. In the present study, we first demonstrate the absence of apoptotic DNA fragmentation and the lack of caspase activity in 16 cases of PML. We also identified the viral protein large T-Antigen as being responsible for the activation of the Survivin promoter. Chromatin Immunoprecipitation assay shows a direct binding between T-Antigen and the Survivin promoter DNA. Finally, we have identified the specific region of T-Antigen, spanning from amino acids 266 and 688, which binds to Survivin and translocates it to the nucleus, providing evidence of a mechanism that results in the efficient replication of JCPyV and a potential target for novel therapies.

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