NAR Cancer. 2023 Jan 11;5(1):zcac046. doi: 10.1093/narcan/zcac046. eCollection 2023 Mar.
Human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) infects CD4+ T-cells resulting in a latent, life-long infection in patients. Crosstalk between oncogenic viral factors results in the transformation of the host cell into an aggressive cancer, adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL). ATL has a poor prognosis with no currently available effective treatments, urging the development of novel therapeutic strategies. Recent evidence exploring those mechanisms contributing to ATL highlights the viral anti-sense gene HTLV-I bZIP factor (HBZ) as a tumor driver and a potential therapeutic target. In this work, a series of zinc-finger protein (ZFP) repressors were designed to target within the HTLV-I promoter that drives HBZ expression at highly conserved sites covering a wide range of HTLV-I genotypes. ZFPs were identified that potently suppressed HBZ expression and resulted in a significant reduction in the proliferation and viability of a patient-derived ATL cell line with the induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. These data encourage the development of this novel ZFP strategy as a targeted modality to inhibit the molecular driver of ATL, a possible next-generation therapeutic for aggressive HTLV-I associated malignancies.