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J Virol. 1997 Mar;71(3):2120-6.

The role of ATF in regulating the human cytomegalovirus DNA polymerase (UL54) promoter during viral infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk 23501, USA.


Previous analysis of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) DNA polymerase (UL54) early gene promoter demonstrated that transcriptional activation of this gene is dependent upon the interaction of cellular transcription factors with viral transactivators (J. A. Kerry, M. A. Priddy, T. Y. Jervey, C. P. Kohler, T. L. Staley, C. D. Vanson, T. R. Jones, A. C. Iskenderian, D. G. Anders, and R. M. Stenberg, J. Virol. 70:373-382, 1996). A sequence element, IR1, was shown to be the primary regulatory element of this promoter in transient assays. However, assessment of this element in the context of the viral genome revealed IR1-independent activation at late times after infection. To extend these studies, we aim to identify additional sequence elements involved in the activation of the UL54 promoter. Our present studies demonstrate that the level of binding of proteins to the ATF site in the UL54 promoter is enhanced by viral infection. Furthermore this increase is sensitive to treatment with phosphonoacetic acid (PAA), a DNA synthesis inhibitor. These data suggest that the increase in the level of ATF binding activity is regulated, either directly or indirectly, by HCMV late gene expression. By using specific antibodies, we determined that ATF-1 was a major component of the proteins binding to the UL54 ATF site at late times. In addition, we have demonstrated direct binding of recombinant ATF-1 to the UL54 ATF site. To assess the biological significance of these events, a recombinant virus construct was generated that contained the UL54 promoter with a mutation in the ATF site regulating expression of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene inserted between open reading frames US9 and US10. Analysis of this virus (RVATFmCAT) revealed that mutation of the ATF site does not alter the kinetics of UL54 promoter activation. However, levels of CAT mRNA and activity were reduced by 5- to 10-fold compared to those of the wild-type promoter at all stages of infection. These findings indicate that ATF-1 can regulate the levels of UL54 promoter activity at both early and late times. Furthermore, these results imply that HCMV can regulate the activity of cellular factors involved in early gene regulation.

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