In this paper we describe stably transfected rat cell lines which harbour either the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) immediate early (IE) gene encoding the 72K IE nuclear antigen (IEA) or the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene both under transcriptional control of the HCMV IE enhancer-promoter (-484 to -19 relative to the IE cap site, +1). In these cell lines IE gene or CAT gene expression is repressed but can be induced by heat-shock, by sodium arsenite and by inhibitors of protein synthesis such as cycloheximide (CH). In addition, we present evidence suggesting that CH-mediated activation is cell cycle-dependent. Thus CH-mediated induction of the 72K IEA as well as CAT gene expression was impaired and accumulation of mRNAs did not occur when cellular DNA synthesis was inhibited. Activation of IE genes by CH occurred almost exclusively in those cells which were in S-phase. In contrast, activation of gene expression by sodium arsenite occurred independently of cellular DNA synthesis and was not restricted to cells in S-phase. The data are consistent with, but not proof of, the hypothesis that the activation of IE transcription, brought about by inhibition of protein synthesis, resulted from a disturbed chromatin conformation due to DNA synthesis continuing in the absence of a supply of chromatin-organizing proteins. The possible relevance of these observations with regard to HCMV latency and reactivation is discussed.

Keyword(s): CMV, human , IE enhancer and S-phase

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