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J Virol. 1985 Oct; 56(1): 135–143.
PMCID: PMC252498

Regulation of cytomegalovirus gene expression: alpha and beta promoters are trans activated by viral functions in permissive human fibroblasts.


We have fused immediate (alpha) and delayed (beta) early promoter-regulatory sequences taken from the cytomegalovirus (CMV) genome to Escherichia coli lacZ (beta-galactosidase) as an indicator gene to study regulated expression of these promoters. After transfection of human fibroblast cells with plasmid constructs carrying beta-galactosidase fusions, and subsequent infection with CMV, we have demonstrated that viral trans-acting functions up-regulate the expression of these genes in a temporally authentic manner. The alpha promoter is activated even when de novo protein synthesis is blocked and when UV-inactivated virus is used, suggesting that, as for herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), a virion structural protein is responsible for its up-regulation. We have found that HSV-1, as well as CMV, is capable of trans activating the CMV alpha promoter. The beta promoter is activated by CMV but is completely unresponsive to HSV-1 infection. The temporal synthesis of the alpha and beta promoters in the transient expression system conforms with their natural regulation during viral replication. The beta-galactosidase fusions we describe provide a most exquisitely sensitive indicator system for the study of cis- and trans-acting viral regulatory functions.

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