We have reported previously the detection of two stable immediate-early (IE) transcripts that accumulate in cycloheximide-treated cells infected with herpesvirus saimiri (HVS). These are the 1.6-kb mRNA from the 52-kDa gene (which is homologous to the BSLF2-BMLF1 gene of Epstein-Barr virus) and the 1.3-kb mRNA from the HindIII-G fragment of virus DNA. In order to study the roles of the HVS IE gene products in the progression of a lytic infection, the promoter region of the delayed-early 110-kDa gene of HVS was sequenced, the transcription initiation site was mapped by RNase protection, and the promoter sequences were cloned upstream of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene. Sequences between -447 and +37 (relative to the 110-kDa transcription initiation site) were sufficient for response to HVS superinfection of transfected cells, but the 110-kDa promoter was activated only poorly by the 52-kDa and HindIII-G IE (IE-G) proteins in cotransfection experiments. However, a distinct region of the genome, EcoRI-D (15 kbp), was able to activate 110-kDa-CAT expression relatively efficiently in similar experiments. A 4.7-kbp PstI fragment encoding this function was isolated and sequenced, and further subcloning identified the gene encoding the EcoRI-D trans activator. This gene, which we now designate HVS.R, is homologous to the BRLF1-encoded transcriptional effector of Epstein-Barr virus
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