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EMBO J. 1987 Feb;6(2):389-95.

Identification of two distinct elements in the long terminal repeat of HTLV-I responsible for maximum gene expression.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type I has a unique sequence, pX, between env and the 3' long terminal repeat (LTR). One of its products, p40, activates gene expression directed by the LTR in a trans-acting manner. We have analysed the mechanism of this trans-activation mediated by p40 in human T cells co-transfected with a plasmid expressing p40 using the transient CAT gene expression. We identified two distinct elements in the LTR which are involved in maximum gene expression. The first was present in a 230-bp fragment upstream from TATA box in the U3 region and behaved as a classical enhancer. This region was also shown to be responsible for trans-activation by p40. This element alone together with functional p40 could direct the gene expression at only approximately 10% of the level achieved by the complete LTR and p40. The second element was present within a 300-bp fragment downstream from the RNA start site and profoundly enhanced the gene expression in a way independent from trans-activation mechanism. This enhancement was observed only when the element was located immediately downstream from the RNA start site without orientation preference. These two elements participate independently in the enhancement of gene expression.

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