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Virology. 1995 Aug 1;211(1):251-60.

Interferon-alpha inhibits the murine cytomegalovirus immediate-early gene expression by down-regulating NF-kappa B activity.

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Institute of Microbiology, University of Torino, Italy.


Transcription of murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) immediate-early (IE) genes is regulated by the interaction of cellular transcription factors with a strong viral enhancer controlling promoters flanking both sides of the regulatory sequence. We have previously demonstrated that interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) inhibits MCMV replication by impairing the transcription of IE genes. To define the cis-acting elements and trans-acting factors involved in this inhibition, permissive murine fibroblasts were transferred with DNA constructs containing the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase reporter gene and portions of the IE enhanced. The region spanning -1185 to -259 relative to the IE1-3 promoter was sufficient to allow IFN-alpha-induced inhibition. Since this segment contains several NF-kappa B sites, cells were transfected with a construct containing three copies of NF-kappa B element in front of the homologous minimal IE1-3 promoter. Upon IFN-alpha treatment the reporter gene activity was strongly reduced, indicating that NF-kappa B binding site is sufficient to confer inhibition. The specificity of this inhibition was demonstrated by the lack of a significant effect on the activity of DNA constructs containing either a mutated NF-kappa B trimer or an ATF/CRE trimer. Gel shift assays with NF-kappa B probes revealed that MCMV infection activated NF-kappa B proteins, whereas IFN-alpha treatment significantly reduced their ability to bind NF-kappa B sites. In cotransfection experiments using various NF-kappa B subunit expression vectors and a reporter driven by three copies of an NF-kappa B element, activation of NF-kappa B-dependent transcription was observed with expression of p65 or combinations of p50-p65. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that IFN-alpha inhibits MCMV IE gene enhancer activity by mechanisms that decrease the availability of virus-induced NF-kappa B transcriptionally active in the nuclei of infected cells.

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