Supercoiled plasmid molecules containing cloned copies of a DNA fragment which includes a functional herpes simplex virus type 1 origin of DNA replication were cleaved preferentially at two positions within the viral insert by nuclease S1. Plasmids with molecular linker insertions at these sites were constructed, and analysis of two representative plasmids demonstrated the presence of palindromic DNA sequences at the preferred cleavage positions. One of these palindromic sequences occurred within a 90 bp region in which the -acting sequences essential for viral origin function had previously been located. Insertion of a linker at this position abolished origin activity, demonstrating an essential role for sequences within the palindrome in the initiation of DNA synthesis. In transfection assays, plasmids containing a functional viral origin of DNA replication markedly interfered with the infectivity of non-defective viral DNA even in the absence of viral encapsidation signals. Inactivation of the origin greatly reduced this effect on DNA infectivity, suggesting that viral interference may be mediated by a mechanism involving the replicative machinery.


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