During human adenovirus 5 infection, a temporal cascade of gene expression leads ultimately to the production of large amounts of the proteins needed to construct progeny virions. However the mechanism for activation of the major late gene that encodes these viral structural proteins has not been well understood. We show here that two key positive regulators of the major late gene, L4-22K and L4-33K, previously thought to be expressed under the control of the major late promoter itself, are initially expressed from a novel promoter that is embedded within the major late gene and dedicated to their expression. This L4 promoter is required for late gene expression and is activated by a combination of viral protein activators produced during the infection, including E1A, E4 Orf3 and the intermediate phase protein IVa2, and also by viral genome replication. This new understanding re-draws the long-established view of how adenoviral gene expression patterns are controlled and offers new ways to manipulate that gene expression cascade for adenovirus vector applications
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