The immediate-early (IE) infected cell proteins induced by the murine cytomegalovirus (Smith strain) were studied. These polypeptides were identified as IE proteins by their synthesis in the presence of actinomycin D after removal from a protein synthesis block mediated by cycloheximide. By using a murine antiserum against murine cytomegalovirus, three abundant polypeptides of 89, 84, and 76 kilodaltons (kd) were immunoprecipitated. The three major proteins are phosphorylated but not glycosylated and share antigenic determinants recognized by monoclonal antibodies. The 84 and 76-kd polypeptides represent post-translational modification products of the 89-kd protein. Accordingly, in vitro translation of IE infected cell RNA revealed only the 89-kd polypeptide. The viral origin of the RNA species directing the synthesis of the major 89-kd IE polypeptide was verified by hybrid selection of IE RNA with DNA fragments representing the region from 0.769 to 0.815 map units of the murine cytomegalovirus genome. IE polypeptides were found to be located in the nuclei and the cytoplasm of infected cells. Studies on the kinetics of IE polypeptide synthesis revealed negative regulatory effects on IE gene expression correlated with the synthesis of early proteins
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