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Molecular Virology and Microbiology

Houston, Texas

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Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology
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Susan J. Marriott, Ph.D.

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Susan J. Marriott, Ph.D.

Department of Molecular Virology & Microbiology

Research Interests

Viral Transformation and Transcription Control

Human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV-I) is the etiologic agent of at least two human diseases, adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-I associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM). The viral genome encodes a regulatory protein, Tax, which functions as a transcriptional transactivator of viral and cellular gene expression, and is the transforming protein of HTLV-I. The primary interest of my laboratory is to use Tax as a model system to understand cellular transformation. Our efforts are focused on:

Defining the mechanism of Tax transactivation of the HTLV-I promoter located in the long terminal repeat (LTR). Tax does not bind DNA directly; however, it can associate with the cellular transcription factors including CREB, NF-kB, and SRF. We are investigating the molecular mechanisms of Tax transactivation of viral and cellular promoters with specific interest in the effect of Tax on chromatin remodeling through recruitment of histone acetyltransferases.

Determining the effect of Tax on cell cycle progression and DNA replication/repair. The ability of Tax to transform cells is thought to depend on its ability to activate expression of a select group of cellular genes. Tax activates transcription of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) promoter. PCNA is an essential co-factor of DNA polymerase delta and thus is intimately linked to DNA replication and repair. We have demonstrated that Tax can inhibit the cell’s ability to repair DNA damage. In cells expressing Tax, we propose that PCNA overexpression inhibits DNA repair and stimulates DNA replication, thus fixing mutations in the genome. Supporting this model, Tax stimulates cell cycle progression even in the presence of DNA damage. We have mapped this cell cycle defect to the G1/S checkpoint. The disruption of cellular mechanisms that coordinate DNA replication and repair may allow accumulation of DNA damage and thus play an important role in transformation

Contact Information

Department of Molecular Virology & Microbiology
Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza, MS BCM385
Houston, TX, 77030



Ph.D. - Kansas State University
Postdoctoral - National Institutes of Health

Recent Publications (PubMed)

Switzer WM, M Salemi, SH Qari, H Jia, A Katzourakis, SJ Marriott, KN Pryor, ND Wolfe, DS Burke, TM Folks, and W Heneine. 2009. Complete genome analysis of the novel human T-lymphotropic virus type 4 reveals an ancient, independent evolution with distinct molecular features. Retrovirology 6:9 (highly accessed) .

Chandhasin C, R Ducu, E Berkovich, MB Kastan and SJ Marriott. 2008. HTLV-I Tax attenuates the ATM-mediated DNA damage response. J. Virol 82:6952-6961.

Edwards DC and SJ Marriott. 2008. HTLV-1 Tax relieves repression of PCNA gene expression. J Virol 82:11714-11722.

Winter HY and SJ Marriott. 2007. Human T cell leukemia virus type 1 Tax enhances serum response factor DNA binding and alters site selection. J. Virol. 81:6089-6098.

Winter HY, Dayaram T, and SJ Marriott. 2007. Activation of the HTLV-I LTR by the ternary complex factor, Elk-1. J Virol 81:13075-13081.

Gatza ML and SJ Marriott. 2007. Ubiquitination of HTLV-I Tax in response to DNA damage regulates nuclear complex formation and nuclear export. Retrovirology 4:95.

Gatza ML and SJ Marriott. 2006. Genotoxic stress alters the subcellular distribution of HTLV-1 Tax through a CRM1-dependent mechanism. J. Virol. 80:6657-6668.

Gatza ML, C Chandhasin, RI Ducu and SJ Marriott. 2005. Impact of transforming viruses on cellular mutagenesis, genome stability and cellular transformation. Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis 45:1-7.

Gatza M., J. Watt and SJ Marriott. 2003. Cellular transformation by the HTLV-I Tax protein: a jack of all trades. Oncogene Reviews 22:5131-5140.

Lemoine FJ and SJ Marriott. 2002. Genomic instability driven by the human T cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) oncoprotein, Tax. Oncogene 21:7230-7234.

Lemoine FJ, and SJ Marriott. 2001. Accelerated G1 phase progression induced by the human T cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) Tax oncoprotein. J Biol Chem 276:31851-31857.

Kao S-Y and SJ Marriott. 2000. Suppression of DNA repair by HTLV-I Tax is rescued by a functional p53 signaling pathway. J Biol Chem 275:35926-35931.

Kao S-Y and SJ Marriott. 1999. Disruption of nucleotide excision repair by the human T cell leukemia virus type-I Tax protein. J Virol 73:4299-4304.

Kwok RPS, ME Laurance, JR Lundblad, PS Goldman, H-M Shih, LM Connor, SJ Marriott, R Goodman. 1996. Control of cAMP-regulated enhancers by the viral transactivator Tax through CREB and the co-activator CBP. Nature 380:642-646.


Tajhal Dayaram
Kendle Pryor