Non-canonical function of Tat in regulating host microtubule dynamics: Implications for the pathogenesis of lentiviral infections

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Lentiviruses are a class of genetically unique retroviruses that share similar features, despite their wide variety of host species. Transactivator of transcription (Tat) proteins of lentiviruses are critical for the regulation of viral transcription and replication. Recent studies demonstrate that in addition to mediating transactivation, Tat binds to the microtubule cytoskeleton of the host cell and interferes with microtubule dynamics, ultimately triggering apoptosis. This non-canonical function of Tat appears to be critical for the pathogenesis of lentiviral diseases, such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Here, we compare the structure and activity of Tat proteins from three different types of lentiviruses, focusing on the roles of these proteins in the alteration of host microtubule dynamics and induction of apoptosis. We propose that further investigation of the Tat-microtubule interaction will provide important insight into the process of lentiviral pathogenesis and elucidate new avenues for the development of antiviral therapies.

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