The cis-acting elements for the early and late promoters, as well as the enhancer in the prototype strains of human polyomavirus BK (BKV) are located within a 500 bp intergenic region. We previously studied the specificity of protein binding in this region and showed that the interaction of proteins of the nuclear factor-1 (NF-1) family is crucial for early promoter activity. We have now extended our study to the BKV late promoter. We show that the late promoter activity in HeLa cell extracts is poor compared to the activity of the early promoter. Using a high template to protein ratio, multiple start sites were detected by primer extension analysis. DNase I protection experiments revealed the presence of three NF-1 binding sites in the late side, in addition to those identified previously in the 68 bp repeats and C element. Competition transcription assays using binding sites for NF-1, AP-1, Sp-1 and a complete 68 bp repeat indicated that only the 68 bp repeat and the NF-1 binding site competed significantly with the late promoter activity. A point mutation in the NF-1 binding site, which destroys the ability of the oligonucleotide to bind NF-1, also impaired its capacity to compete with the late promoter. The ability of NF-1 to activate both the early and late promoters suggests that the proteins of this family act as a bidirectional transcriptional activator in this virus.


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