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Virology. 1992 Nov;191(1):346-54.

The varicella-zoster virus immediate early protein, IE62, can positively regulate its cognate promoter.

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Department of Microbiology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799.


Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV) is a neurotropic alphaherpes virus closely related to herpes simplex virus (HSV). However, unlike its close relative HSV, VZV lacks a functional alpha-TIF (alpha-gene transinducing factor) that activates the transcription of immediate early genes during the initial events of the virus life cycle. Hence, in the absence of a functional alpha-TIF, the mechanism triggering the expression of immediate early genes in VZV at present remains unclear. Accumulating evidence indicates that the gene product of the putative immediate early gene ORF62 (IE62) plays a pivotal role in activating VZV genes of all three putative kinetic classes, namely immediate early (alpha), early (beta), and late (gamma) classes of VZV genes. In the present study, we show that IE62 can positively autoregulate its cognate promoter using a transient transfection assay, both in lymphocytes and in neural cells. In the same system, we can also demonstrate activation of the VZV IE62 promoter by HSV ICP4. By deletion analysis and oligonucleotide-directed site-specific mutagenesis we have localized specific regions in the IE62 promoter/upstream sequences that mediate inducibility by IE62 and HSV ICP4, and provide evidence that this promoter activation by these two proteins may be through different mechanisms. These data, taken together with the recent demonstration of the presence of IE62 in the VZ virion tegument (Kinchington, P.R., Hoagland, J.K., Arvin, A.M., Ruyechan, W.T., and Hay, J. 1992. J. Virol. 66, 359-366) provides a possible mechanism by which the triggering of VZV gene expression occurs in the absence of a functional alpha-TIF protein.

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