Visna virus is a pathogenic lentivirus of sheep that is related to human T-cell lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III), the probable etiologic agent of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The transcriptional activity of visna virus promoter and enhancer sequences was studied by means of an assay based on the transient expression of the bacterial gene chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). The results suggest that the high level of expression of visna virus is due in part to cis-acting enhancer sequences that give the viral promoter a high level of transcriptional activity. In addition, the rate of transcription from the visna virus promoter situated in a plasmid expressing the CAT gene was much greater in infected than uninfected cells. This phenomenon of trails-acting transcriptional activation may involve either virally or cellularly encoded factors.
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