The Epstein—Barr virus (EBV) BZLF1 gene product, Zta is able to trigger the viral lytic cycle in latently infected B lymphocytes. Investigations into regulation of the promoter, Zp for the BZLF1 gene in B cells have identified 12--tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate, anti-immunoglobulin and Zta responsive elements as well as a negative regulatory element within Zp. EBV infects and replicates within squamous epithelial cells and there is evidence to indicate that EBV gene expression is linked to the differentiation status of epithelial cells. We have investigated regulation of Zp in undifferentiated and differentiated cells of the human squamous epithelial cell line SCC12F. Zp was found to be active in SCC12F cells and activity was increased approximately 7-fold upon induction of epithelial terminal differentiation. Sequences responsive to epithelial cell differentiation were contained within the region of Zp from -86 to +12 bp, a region previously shown to contain an AP-1-like binding site, designated the ZII domain. In addition, enhancing sequences were detected in the region -221 to -86 bp. These studies will lead to a greater understanding of differentiation-linked EBV gene expression in human squamous epithelial cells.


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