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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 Dec;17(12):6898-905.

Promoter activity of Tat at steps subsequent to TATA-binding protein recruitment.

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Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0460, USA.


Artificial recruitment of TATA-binding protein (TBP) to many eukaryotic promoters bypasses DNA-bound activator function. The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Tat is an unconventional activator that up-regulates transcription from the HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) through binding to a nascent RNA sequence, TAR. Because this LTR and its cognate activator have atypical features compared to a standard RNA polymerase II (RNAP II) transcriptional unit, the precise limiting steps for HIV-1 transcription and how Tat resolves these limitations remain incompletely understood. We thus constructed human TBP fused to the DNA-binding domain of GAL4 to determine whether recruitment of TBP is one rate-limiting step in HIV-1 LTR transcription and whether Tat functions to recruit TBP. As a control, we compared the activity of the adenovirus E1b promoter. Our findings indicate that TBP tethering to the E1b promoter fully effected transcription to the same degree achievable with the potent GAL4-VP16 activator. By contrast, TBP recruitment to the HIV-1 LTR, although necessary for conferring Tat responsiveness, did not bypass a physical need for Tat in achieving activated transcription. These results document that the HIV-1 and the E1b promoters are transcriptionally limited at different steps; the major rate-limiting step for E1b is recruitment of TBP, while activation of the HIV-1 LTR requires steps in addition to TBP recruitment. We suggest that Tat acts to accelerate rate-limiting steps after TBP recruitment.

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