Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) open reading frame 4-encoded protein (IE4) possesses transactivating properties for VZV genes as well as for genes of heterologous viruses. The major regulatory immediate-early protein of VZV (IE62) is a transactivator of VZV gene expression. In transfection assays, IE4 has been shown to enhance activation induced by IE62. To investigate the functional interactions underlying this observation, indirect immuno-fluorescence studies were undertaken to determine whether IE62 could influence IE4 intracellular localization in transfected cells. In single transfections, IE4 was predominantly found in cytoplasm. In cotransfection with IE62, the IE4 localization pattern was altered, with nuclear staining predominating over cytoplasmic staining. This effect was specific to the IE62 protein since the gene products of ORF63 and ORF61, which are also regulatory proteins, did not influence IE4 distribution. The use of IE62 mutants indicated that IE62 influence is independent of its transactivation function and that the integrity of regions 3 and 4 is required. IE62 remained nuclear whether IE4 was present or not. These observations underline differences in the regulation of gene expression between VZV proteins and their herpes simplex virus type 1 homologues. In infected cells, IE4 was only sometimes found to colocalize with IE62 in nuclei. This observation suggests that when all VZV proteins are present, complex interactions probably occur which could diminish the influence of IE62.


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