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J Virol. 2007 May;81(10):5192-201. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

CTCF-dependent chromatin boundary element between the latency-associated transcript and ICP0 promoters in the herpes simplex virus type 1 genome.

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The Wistar Institute, 3601 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Cells latently infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV) contain nucleosomal DNA similar to that of host cell chromatin. Recent studies have demonstrated that histones in the latency-associated transcript (LAT) promoter and intron regions contain histone modifications permissive for transcription. However, those histones associated with the lytic-specific ICP0 gene, which lies only 5 kb away, contain modifications typical of silenced chromatin. How this active chromatin is kept separate from the repressed chromatin in the nearby ICP0 region remains crucial to the understanding of the HSV lytic cycle. In this study, we show that the LAT intron region contains an insulator. Specifically, we show that an 800-bp region from the LAT intron can block enhancers in both tissue culture cells and Drosophila melanogaster embryos. Importantly, the 800-bp HSV insulator protects a LAT transgene from positional effects in Drosophila eye tissue. The 800-bp region contains nine copies of 16-bp repeats. In vitro electrophoretic mobility shift assay revealed that CTCF interacts with the CTCCC sequence within the repeats. In vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation assay demonstrated that CTCF interacts with these repeats in latently infected trigeminal ganglion neurons. The deletion of these repeats impaired insulator activity in human K562 cells and Drosophila embryos. Finally, double-spaced RNA knockdown of CTCF disrupts enhancer-blocking activity of the LAT insulator in transfected Drosophila S3 cells. These results strongly support the hypothesis that the 800-bp DNA in the LAT intron region works as a chromatin boundary during latency to separate active chromatin associated with the LAT promoter region from repressed chromatin in the ICP0 gene.

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