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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jan 7;275(1):487-96.

The TATA motif specifies the differential activation of minimal promoters by varicella zoster virus immediate-early regulatory protein IE62.

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Metabolism Branch, Division of Clinical Sciences, NCI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The immediate-early IE62 protein of varicella zoster virus is an acidic transcriptional activator capable of up-regulating many viral and cellular promoters with varying efficiencies. We demonstrate that, in the context of a minimal promoter, a TATA element is both sufficient and essential for IE62-mediated transcriptional activation. Differential levels of activation by IE62 in this context were conferred by a panel of naturally occurring sequence variations within the TATA motif itself. TATA motif-specific, differential induction was not obtained when the IE62 acidic activation domain was targeted as a GAL4 fusion protein to the same panel. The prototype acidic transactivator, VP16 of herpes simplex virus, failed to discriminate between these different TATA motifs when they were placed into an appropriate responsive promoter context. Nonetheless, a chimeric IE62 polypeptide substituted with the VP16 activation domain retained the ability to differentially modulate minimal promoters with various TATA motifs. Taken together with its binding to TATA box-binding protein (TBP) and transcription factor IIB in vitro, we suggest that IE62 has the unusual ability to achieve differential levels of transcriptional activation through different TATA motifs, which may be accomplished either directly or indirectly by recognizing conformational variations in DNA-bound TBP, TBP-transcription factor IIA/B, or TBP-TATA-associated factor complexes.

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