Multiple regulatory events influence human cytomegalovirus DNA polymerase (UL54) expression during viral infection.

Abstract:

The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) DNA polymerase gene (UL54; also called pol) is a prototypical early gene in that expression is mandatory for viral DNA replication. Recently, we have identified the major regulatory element in the UL54 promoter responsive to the major immediate early (MIE) proteins (UL122 and UL123) (J.A. Kerry, M.A. Priddy, and R. M. Stenberg, J. Virol. 68:4167-4176, 1994). Mutation of this element, inverted repeat sequence 1 (IR1), abrogates binding of cellular proteins to the UL54 promoter and reduces promoter activity in response to viral proteins in transient-transfection assays. To extend our studies on the UL54 promoter, we aimed to examine the role of IR1 in UL54 regulation throughout the course of infection. These studies show that viral proteins in addition to the MIE proteins can activate the UL54 promoter. Proteins from UL112-113 and IRS1/TRS1, recently identified as essential loci for transient complementation of HCMV oriLyt-dependent DNA replication, were found to function as transactivators of the UL54 promoter in association with MIE proteins. UL112-113 enhanced UL54 promoter activation by MIE proteins three- to fourfold. Constitutive expression of UL112-113 demonstrated that the MIE protein dependence of UL112-113 transactivational activity was not related to activation of cognate promoter sequences, suggesting that UL112-113 proteins function in cooperation with the MIE proteins. Mutation of IR1 was found to abrogate stimulation of the UL54 promoter by UL112-113, suggesting that this element is also involved in UL112-113 stimulatory activity. These results demonstrate that additional viral proteins influence UL54 promoter expression in transient-transfection assays via the IR1 element. To confirm the biological relevance of IR1 in regulating UL54 promoter activity during viral infection, a recombinant virus construct containing the UL54 promoter with a mutated IR1 element regulating expression of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene (RVIRmCAT) was generated. Analysis of RVIRmCAT revealed that mutation of IR1 dramatically reduces UL54 promoter activity at early times after infection. However, at late times after infection CAT expression by RVIRmCAT, as assessed by RNA and protein levels, was approximately equivalent to expression by wild-type RVpolCAT. These data demonstrate IR1-independent regulation of the UL54 promoter at late times after infection. Together these results show that multiple regulatory events affect UL54 promoter expression during the course of infection.

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