Expression of the Epstein—Barr virus (EBV) latent membrane protein (LMP1) is regulated by virus- and host cell-specific factors. The EBV nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA2) has been shown to transactivate a number of viral and cellular gene promoters including the promoter for the LMP1 gene. EBNA2 is targeted to at least some of these promoters by interacting with a cellular DNA binding protein, RBP-Jκ. In the present report we confirm and extend our previous observation that the LMP1 promoter can be activated by EBNA2 in the absence of the RBP-Jκ-binding sequence in the LMP1 promoter regulatory region (LRS). We show that two distinct LRS regions, -106 to +40 and -176 to -136, contribute to EBNA2 responsiveness. Site-directed mutagenesis analysis of the upstream -176/-136 EBNA2 responsive element revealed that two critical -acting elements are required for full promoter function. These same elements analysed by electrophoretic mobility shift assays define two binding sites recognized by nuclear factors derived from B cells. An octamer-like sequence (-147 to -139) contained overlapping binding sites for an unidentified transcriptional repressor on the one hand and a factor(s) belonging to the POU domain family but distinct from Oct-1 and Oct-2 on the other. An adjacent purine tract (-171 to -155) held a PU.1 binding site, which was also recognized by a related factor. The results suggest that the POU domain protein and either of two PU box-binding factors bind simultaneously to LRS, creating a ternary complex that might be in part responsible for mediating the transactivation of the LMP1 promoter by EBNA2. There were no qualitative differences between EBV-negative and EBV-positive cells with regard to transcription factor binding to the octamer-like sequence and the PU.1 recognition site, as revealed by electrophoretic mobility shift assays.


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