The major immediate-early (IE) gene region mapping at coordinates 0.71 to 0.74 in the genome of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) gives rise to a series of overlapping spliced IE mRNAs that are all under the transcriptional control of the complex IE68 promoter-enhancer region. We show here that one of the phosphorylated nuclear proteins encoded by this region behaves as a powerful but nonspecific trans-activator of gene expression. In transient chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) assay experiments with Vero cells all relatively weak heterologous target promoters tested, including those of herpes simplex virus IE175 and delayed-early genes, adenovirus E3, the enhancerless simian virus 40 early gene, and the human beta interferon gene, were stimulated between 30- and 800-fold by cotransfection with the HindIII C fragment of HCMV (Towne) DNA. In contrast, expression of the homologous HCMV IE68-CAT gene but not SV2-CAT was specifically repressed. Inactivation mapping studies of the effector DNA, together with dose-response comparisons with subclones from the region, revealed that an intact 7.1-kilobase sequence encompassing both the IE1 and IE2 coding regions (exons 1 to 5) in the major IE transcription complex was required for both the nonspecific trans-activation and autoregulatory responses. The IE1 coding region alone (exons 1 to 4) was inactive, but both functions were restored by insertion of the IE2 coding region (exon 5) in the correct orientation downstream from the IE1 coding region. Internal deletions or inserted terminator codons in IE1 (exon 4) still gave efficient trans-activation and autoregulation, whereas the insertion of terminator codons in IE2 (exon 5) abolished both activities. Finally, IE2 (exon 5) sequences only (under the direct transcriptional control of the strong simian CMV IE94 promoter) were still able to specifically down regulate IE68-CAT expression but failed to exhibit trans-activation properties. Therefore, the IE2 gene product(s) of HCMV appear likely to be key control proteins involved in gene regulation during HCMV infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science