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Published in JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, 0022-538X/00/$04.0010 Dec. 2000, p. 11040–11054 Vol. 74, No. 23 Copyright © 2000, American Society for Microbiology. Used by permission.


Several gene fragments of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) have been shown to activate the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 long terminal repeat (LTR). An open reading frame (ORF) designated B701 (Y. Geng, B. Chandran, S. F. Josephs, and C. Wood, J. Virol. 66:1564–1570, 1992), found within a 22-kb HHV-6A strain GS [HHV-6A(GS)] genomic fragment and a 3.8-kb SalI subfragment, was shown to activate the HIV LTR. B701, also known as HHV-6 U16, is located in the immediate-early B (IE-B) region of the genome. The sequence of the 3.8-kb genomic fragment of HHV-6A(GS) is nearly identical to the published sequence of HHV-6A strain U1102, with minor differences. The HHV-6A(GS) B701 ORF (U16) was used to screen an HHV-6A(GS) cDNA library, and two different but overlapping cDNAs were identified. These cDNAs represent differently spliced transcripts ending at different polyadenylation signals. The ORFs included in the cDNAs are positionally homologous to the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) UL36 ORF. The ORF in one cDNA was generated by splicing together in frame ORFs U17 and U16, and the second cDNA included ORFs U16 and U15. A third differentially spliced cDNA (U161), was identified by 5’ rapid amplification of cDNA ends. The predicted protein was identical to the U16 portion of the U17/U16 spliced gene product but did not include the U17 portion. 5*-extension analyses of the mRNAs demonstrated that at least two potential transcription initiation sites were used to express the transcripts encoding U17 and U16 gene products. Single-stranded U16 and U17 gene-specific RNA probes hybridized with at least five RNA species from infected cells and demonstrated that the expression of these transcripts was differentially regulated. The U17/U16 spliced gene products were expressed at IE times after infection, but a multiply spliced gene product encoded by U16 was expressed as a late gene. The U17/U16 and the U161 gene products transactivated the HIV LTR. Thus, while there are similarities to the HCMV UL36-UL38 gene family, some of the IE-B U17/U16 transcripts are unique to HHV-6.

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