Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) open reading frame 61 (ORF61) encodes a protein that transactivates viral and cellular promoters in transient-transfection assays and is the ortholog of herpes simplex virus ICP0. In this report, we mapped the ORF61 promoter and investigated its regulation by viral and cellular proteins in transient-expression experiments and by mutagenesis of the VZV genome (parent Oka strain). The 5' boundary of the minimal ORF61 promoter required for IE62 transactivation was mapped to position -95 relative to the mRNA start site, and three noncanonical GT-rich Sp1-binding sites were documented to occur within the region comprising positions -95 to -45. Contributions of the three Sp1-binding-site motifs, designated Sp1a, Sp1b, and Sp1c, to ORF61 expression and viral replication were varied despite their similar sequences. Two sites, Sp1a and Sp1c, functioned synergistically. When both sites were mutated in the pOka genome to produce pOka-61proDeltaSp1ac, the mutant virus expressed significantly less ORF61 protein. Using this mutant to investigate ORF61 functions resulted in reductions in the expression levels of IE proteins, viral kinases ORF47 and ORF66, and the major glycoprotein gE, with the most impact on gE. Virion morphogenesis appeared to be intact despite minimal ORF61 expression. Pretreating melanoma cells with sodium butyrate enhanced titers of pOka-61proDeltaSp1ac but not pOka, suggesting that ORF61 has a role in histone deacetylase inhibition. Growth of pOka-61proDeltaSp1ac was impaired in SCIDhu skin xenografts, indicating that the regulation of the ORF61 promoter by Sp1 family proteins is important for ORF61 expression in vivo and that ORF61 contributes to VZV virulence at skin sites of replication.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.00118-09
View details for Web of Science ID 000267747400021
View details for PubMedID 19457996