Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) is essential for Epstein-Barr virus to immortalize naïve B cells. EBNA1 transactivates viral promoters for genes that are necessary for immortalization when it is bound to a cluster of 20 cognate binding sites, termed the family of repeats. A region of EBNA1 from amino acids (aa) 40 to 89, termed linking region 1 (LR1), has been identified previously as being sufficient for transactivation. LR1 contains two domains that are conserved in the EBNA1 orthologs of other gamma herpesviruses. The first of these, termed unique region 1 (UR1), corresponds to aa 65 to 89 of EBNA1. UR1 is necessary for transactivation and contains a conserved recognition site for cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), corresponding to serine 78 of EBNA1. We have pharmacologically modulated PKA activity to determine if PKA controls EBNA1's ability to transactivate. Our results indicate that PKA activators and inhibitors do not affect transactivation by EBNA1. In addition, site-directed mutagenesis demonstrates that transactivation is not influenced by the phosphorylation status of serine 78 in the UR1 domain. The second conserved domain within LR1 is a glycine-arginine repeat, corresponding to aa 40 to 54 of EBNA1. This domain, termed ATH1, functions as an AT-hook, a DNA-binding motif found in architectural transcription factors such as HMGA1a. We demonstrate that deletion of the ATH1 domain decreases EBNA1 transactivation ability, which is consistent with a transcriptional role for ATH1. Furthermore, transactivation is restored when ATH1 is replaced by equivalent AT-hook motifs from HMGA1a. Our data strongly indicate a role for AT-hooks in EBNA1's ability to transactivate, a function necessary for EBV to immortalize naïve B-cells
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