Transient expression assays in PC12 cells showed that the cAMP response element (CRE) and the TATA box of the herpes simplex virus type 1 latency-associated transcripts (LATs) promoter are essential for basal expression. Recombinant viruses were generated containing site-specific mutations in these motifs. The abilities of these recombinants to replicate, express LATs and reactivate from latency were compared with wild-type and marker-rescued viruses in a murine ocular model. The acute replication of these TATA and CRE mutant viruses was at a level equivalent to their respective marker-rescued viruses. The reactivation of virus was unaffected by mutation in the TATA box as compared with wild-type or marker-rescued viruses. hybridization of TATA box mutant virus-infected ganglia, however, showed threefold fewer LAT-positive neurons than wild-type virus-infected ganglia, with consistently weaker hybridization signals. Thus, this TATA box is required for normal expression of the LATs but not for efficient reactivation. The LATs CRE mutant reactivated with slightly but reproducibly reduced frequency and delayed kinetics relative to marker-rescued virus. By hybridization, however, the percentage and intensity of LATs-positive neurons were found to be comparable for the CRE mutant- and wild-type virus-infected ganglia, suggesting that the CRE is dispensable for abundant LATs expression but that a reactivation function of the LATs may depend upon the presence of the CRE. Finally, using a modified assay for examining the timing of reactivation, we showed that the induction of viral reactivation by addition of exogenous cAMP can occur independently of the LATs.


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