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J Mol Biol. 1986 Oct 5;191(3):395-409.

Co-ordinate regulation of herpes simplex virus gene expression is mediated by the functional interaction of two immediate early gene products.


At early times after infection with herpes simplex virus, transcription from beta-promoters is initiated only in the presence of a functional 174,000 Mr phosphoprotein (ICP4), encoded by an immediate early (alpha) gene (IE4). A transient expression assay was used to analyze the requirement for two (ICP4 and ICP0) of the five alpha-gene products in the transcriptional regulation of model alpha and beta-gene promoters. These studies reveal that cells cotransfected with plasmids containing the alpha-gene sequences for infected cell proteins (ICPs) 4 and 0 and a thymidine kinase (TK, a beta-gene) gene or the thymidine kinase promoter fused to a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) cassette accumulate 10 to 20-fold more RNA or exhibit 10 to 20-fold more CAT activity than cells cotransfected with a plasmid encoding either alpha-gene protein and a thymidine kinase indicator gene. Functional ICP4 is required for enhanced transcriptional activation in the transient expression assay system. It is also required for the uniform dispersal of ICP0 throughout the nucleus as shown by immunofluorescence staining analysis of transfected cells. Two alpha-promoter-CAT fusions were used as targets to study what effects ICP4, ICP0 and Vmw65 (the virion-associated alpha-gene transactivator) have on expression from alpha-promoters that contain all of the sequences that confer alpha-gene regulation, or only the core sequence governing basal level expression. We conclude that ICP4 can activate alpha-gene expression from the core sequence and, depending on its abundance, activate or repress expression from a promoter containing the sequences required for alpha-gene regulation. Independent of these alpha-regulatory sequences cotransfection with low levels of sequences encoding both ICP0 and ICP4 activate expression. At higher ratios of effector (both ICP4 and ICP0) the target accumulation of CAT activity decreases. Although a ts allele of IE4 (cloned from the mutant virus tsK) does not activate alpha-gene expression it can enhance the ability of ICP0 to activate a target containing alpha-regulatory sequences. Virus studies involving tsK support the conclusion that functional ICP4 is required to activate beta-promoters and to repress expression from alpha-promoters and help to explain the pleiotropic effects of the tsK mutation. These analyses have also revealed the presence of a novel RNA species that overlaps the sequences encoding ICP0. Our results suggest that co-ordinate regulation of HSV gene expression is mediated by the functional interaction of at least two alpha-gene products, ICP0 and ICP4.

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