Pathogenic JCV with rearranged regulatory regions (PML-type) causes PML, a demyelinating disease, in the brains of immunocompromised patients. On the other hand, archetype JCV persistently infecting the kidney is thought to be converted to PML-type virus during JCV replication in the infected host under immunosuppressed conditions. In addition, Tat protein, encoded by HIV-1, markedly enhances the expression of a reporter gene under control of the JCV late promoter.
In order to examine the influence of Tat on JCV propagation, we used kidney-derived COS-7 cells, which only permit archetype JCV, and established COS-tat cells, which express HIV-1 Tat stably. We found that the extent of archetype JCV propagation in COS-tat cells is significantly greater than in COS-7 cells. On the other hand, COS-7 cells express SV40 T antigen, which is a strong stimulator of archetype JCV replication. The expression of SV40 T antigen was enhanced by HIV-1 Tat slightly according to real-time RT-PCR, this was not closely related to JCV replication in COS-tat cells. The efficiency of JCV propagation depended on the extent of expression of functional Tat. To our knowledge, this is the first report of increased production of archetype JCV in a culture system using cell lines stably expressing HIV-1 Tat. We propose here that COS-tat cells are a useful tool for studying the role of Tat in archetype JCV replication in the development of PML.