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Virology. 2003 Jun 5;310(2):199-206.

Synergistic autoactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus immediate-early BRLF1 promoter by Rta and Zta.

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Division of Microbiology and Immunology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


Expression of two Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) immediate-early gene products, Zta (encoded by the BZLF1 gene) and Rta (encoded by the BRLF1 gene), are required for the switch from latent infection to virus replication. We have analyzed the regions of the BRLF1 gene promoter (Rp) that are required for Rta and Zta transactivation of Rp. Notably, significant synergy between the actions of Rta and Zta on Rp was observed in both a B cell line (DG75) and an epithelial cell line (293), suggesting that during induction of the viral lytic cycle low levels of these viral transactivators are likely sufficient to initiate the entire lytic cascade. However, while two Zta binding sites (ZREs) have been identified in Rp, the proximal ZRE was the dominant site for mediating Zta transactivation. Rta activation of Rp was diminished by mutation of the proximal Sp1 binding site, as previously reported (J. Virol. 75 (2001), 5240), but mutation of this site only had a modest impact on transactivation of Rp by Rta in the presence of Zta. Further deletion analyses of Rp failed to identify a critical site for Rta transactivation of Rp in the presence of Zta, with the exception of deleting the TATAA box of Rp, suggesting that a non-DNA binding mechanism may be involved in the observed activation of Rp by Rta. We also observed promiscuous activation of several reporter constructs by Rta, suggesting that Rta activation of gene expression may involve a general non-DNA binding mechanism. Decreasing the amount of transfected Rta expression vector reduced background Rta activation, while retaining specific activation of Rp.

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