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J Immunol. 2001 Aug 15;167(4):2202-8.

Expression of TNF-alpha by herpes simplex virus-infected macrophages is regulated by a dual mechanism: transcriptional regulation by NF-kappa B and activating transcription factor 2/Jun and translational regulation through the AU-rich region of the 3' untranslated region.

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  • 1Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.


Here we have investigated the regulation of TNF-alpha expression in macrophages during HSV-2 infection. Despite a low basal level of TNF-alpha mRNA present in resting macrophages, no TNF-alpha protein is detectable. HSV-2 infection marginally increases the level of TNF-alpha mRNA and protein in resting macrophages, whereas a strong increase is observed in IFN-gamma-activated cells infected with the virus. By reporter gene assay it was found that HSV infection augments TNF-alpha promoter activity. Moreover, treatment of the cells with actinomycin D, which totally blocked mRNA synthesis, only partially prevented accumulation of TNF-alpha protein, indicating that the infection lifts a block on translation of TNF-alpha mRNA. EMSA analysis showed that specific binding to the kappaB#3 site of the murine TNF-alpha promoter was induced within 1 h after infection and persisted beyond 5 h where TNF-alpha expression is down-modulated. Binding to the cAMP responsive element site was also induced but more transiently with kinetics closely following activation of the TNF-alpha promoter. Inhibitors against either NF-kappaB activation or the activating transcription factor 2 kinase p38 abrogated TNF-alpha expression, showing a requirement for both signals for activation of the promoter. This observation was corroborated by reporter gene assays. As to the translational regulation of TNF-alpha, the AU-rich sequence in the 3' untranslated region of the mRNA was found to be responsible for this control because deletion of this region renders mRNA constitutively translationable. These results show that TNF-alpha production is induced by HSV-2 in macrophages through both transcriptional and translational regulation.

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