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Virology. 1999 Jul 20;260(1):156-64.

Transcriptional analysis of the murine cytomegalovirus HindIII-I region: identification of a novel immediate-early gene region.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, 23507, USA.


Cytomegaloviruses likely encode numerous gene products involved in regulating virus-host cell interactions and pathogenesis. We previously identified a region of murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) within HindIII-J and -I that regulates pathogenesis of the virus [open reading frames (ORFs) M139-M141] or is likely required for MCMV replication (ORFs m142 and m143). As a prerequisite for further studies on the structure and function of this gene region, we mapped the transcripts encoded within MCMV HindIII-I. Probes for ORFs M140 and M141 hybridized to 5.4- and 7.0-kb RNA, respectively, which were transcribed with early kinetics and were 3' coterminal with HindIII-J ORF M139. Probes representing ORFs m142, m143, or m144 hybridized to 3' coterminal transcripts of 1.8, 3.8, and 5.1 kb, respectively. ORFs m142 and m143 were transcribed with immediate-early kinetics but were most abundantly expressed at early times. Probes for the rightmost end of HindIII-I hybridized to a 5. 1-kb early/late RNA corresponding to m144 and to a 1.8-kb early RNA transcribed from m145. All of the major transcripts were polyadenylated and therefore are likely coding. Additional minor transcripts of intermediate sizes were also detected. ORFs M139-m143 showed homology to the betaherpesvirus-specific HCMV US22 gene family. Because deletion of these viral genes results in attenuated or helper-dependent phenotypes, this conserved region of US22 family genes may have a role in virus replication as well as in the pathogenesis of betaherpesviruses in their natural hosts.

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