The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) major immediate-early (MIE) genes, encoding IE1 p72 and IE2 p86, are activated by a complex enhancer region (base positions -65 to -550) that operates in a cell type- and differentiation-dependent manner. The expression of MIE genes is required for HCMV replication. Previous studies analyzing functions of MIE promoter-enhancer segments suggest that the distal enhancer region variably modifies MIE promoter activity, depending on cell type, stimuli, or state of differentiation. To further understand the mechanism by which the MIE promoter is regulated, we constructed and analyzed several different recombinant HCMVs that lack the distal enhancer region (-300 to -582, -640, or -1108). In human fibroblasts, the HCMVs without the distal enhancer replicate normally at high multiplicity of infection (MOI) but replicate poorly at low MOI in comparison to wild-type virus (WT) or HCMVs that lack the neighboring upstream unique region and modulator (-582 or -640 to -1108). The growth aberrancy was normalized after restoring the distal enhancer in a virus lacking this region. For HCMVs without a distal enhancer, the impairment in replication at low MOI corresponds to a deficiency in production of MIE RNAs compared to WT or virus lacking the unique region and modulator. An underproduction of viral US3 RNA was also evident at low MOI. Whether lower production of IE1 p72 and IE2 p86 causes a reduction in expression of the immediate-early (IE) class US3 gene remains to be determined. We conclude that the MIE distal enhancer region possesses a mechanism for augmenting viral IE gene expression and genome replication at low MOI, but this regulatory function is unnecessary at high MOI
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.