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J Virol. Jan 1992; 66(1): 139–149.
PMCID: PMC238269

Functional roles for the TATA promoter and enhancers in basal and Tat-induced expression of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 long terminal repeat.


We have analyzed the contributory role of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) promoter and enhancers in basal and Tat-induced transcription. We found that a minimal promoter competent for basal expression is contained within sequences spanning nucleotides -43 to +80. Basal expression from this HIV-1 promoter was boosted more by the additional presence of the NF-kappa B elements than by the Sp1 elements. The minimal long terminal repeat promoter (-43 to +80), while having an intact TAR sequence, was not Tat inducible. However, the simple addition of short synthetic enhancer motifs (AP1, Oct, Sp1, and NF-kappa B) conferred Tat responsiveness. This ability to respond to Tat was in part dependent on the presence of the HIV-1 promoter. Changing the HIV-1 TATA to other eucaryotic TATA or non-TATA initiators minimally affected basal expression but altered Tat inducibility. Our findings suggest a specific context of functional promoter and enhancer elements that is optimal for Tat trans activation of the HIV-1 long terminal repeat. Our results do not allow conclusions about whether Tat acts at the level of initiation or at the level of elongation to be drawn.

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