- Previous reports have shown that, in certain cell types, p21WAF-1, which plays a central role in cell proliferation, can be activated by HTLV-I Tax protein and by TPA. Tax and TPA are also known to stimulate HTLV-I gene expression. Since cell proliferation has a major impact on HTLV-I replication, it was of interest to investigate their effect on p21WAF-1 in human T cells, which are the main target of HTLV-I in human infection. This study demonstrates that p21WAF-1 is activated in such cells by both factors, each acting through a different mechanism that does not influence the other. The effect of TPA is shown to require PKC activity. Notably, however, examination of different PKC isoforms revealed that PKC-α and PKC-ɛ stimulated p21WAF-1 expression, whereas PKC-η was rather inhibitory and PKC-β1 and β2 were ineffective. All these isoforms were found to be activated by TPA in the employed T cells, but this apparent paradox was resolved by the observation that when coexpressed together in these cells, the stimulatory PKCs override the inhibitory isoform. Further experiments demonstrated that the PKC-induced p21WAF-1 activation was mediated by binding of Sp1-p53 complex to the second most upstream of the six Sp1 recognition sites present in its promoter and that this effect did not require the cooperation of an p53-binding site.