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p12I is a small hydrophobic protein encoded by the human T-cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) that interacts with the 16-kDa component of the H+ vacuolar ATPase and cooperates with bovine papillomavirus 1 E5 oncoprotein in cell transformation. Just as an important step in E5 action appears to be its binding to the platelet-derived growth factor receptor, it was found that p12I binds specifically to both the beta and gamma(c) chains of the interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R). The IL-2R beta and gamma(c) chains associated with p12I are endoglycosidase-H sensitive, suggesting that their interaction occurs in a pre-Golgi compartment. p12I stabilizes the immature forms of the IL-2R beta and gamma(c) chains and decreases their cell surface expression. The interactions of p12I with IL-2R beta and gamma(c) may have important implications in the immunosuppressive effect of HTLV-1 in vivo as well as in the ligand-independent HTLV-1-mediated T-cell proliferation.