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Virology. 1999 Dec 20;265(2):296-307.

Identification of a novel 0.7-kb polyadenylated transcript in the LAT promoter region of HSV-1 that is strain specific and may contribute to virulence.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Herpes Simplex virus expresses latency-associated transcripts (LATs) the function of which remains obscure despite increasing knowledge of their structure and expression. Upstream of the LAT coding region is a region of the genome that is poorly characterized although it lies in an area that is responsible for modulation of reactivation efficiency in two different animal models. Transcript mapping with strains 17, McKrae, KOS, and F has revealed strain differences in this region of the viral genome. Strain 17 and McKrae expressed a novel polyadenylated 0.7-kb transcript that is absent from KOS and F. This transcript is expressed in the LAT direction and has the kinetics of a true late gene during the lytic cycle of infection. A deletion mutant, 17DeltaBsa, which does not express the 0.7-kb RNA, is less virulent than the parental strain 17. A rescuant with F sequence (17DeltaBsa/RF) shows virulence similar to F, whereas a rescuant with strain 17 sequence (17DeltaBsa/R17) is similar to strain 17. Virulence is altered by deletion or substitution in the region encoding the 0.7-kb transcript (BsaI-BsaI); however, reactivation in the mouse explant cocultivation assay or the adrenergically induced rabbit reactivation model remained unchanged. The importance of this region for virulence is discussed.

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