The switch from latency to a productive cycle in Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-infected B cells proliferating is thought to be due to the transcriptional activation of two viral genes, BZLF1 and BRLF1, encoding two transcription factors called EB1 and R respectively. However, a third gene, BRRF1 is contained in the BZLF1/BRLF1 locus, overlapping with BRLF1 but in inverse orientation. We have characterized the 5′ end of the BRRF1 mRNA and the promoter, PNa, at which BRRF1 pre-mRNA is initiated. We show that although a single BRRF1 mRNA species is induced by 12--tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate/sodium butyrate in several EBV-infected B cell lines, in Akata cells treated with anti-IgG two BRRF1 mRNAs can be detected. Transcription initiated at the BRRF1 promoter was activated by EB1 but not by R, and EB1-binding sites which contribute to the EB1-activated transcription have been mapped to between positions −469 and +1. A 34 kDa protein could be translated from the BRRF1 mRNA both and , and was found predominantly in the nucleus of HeLa cells transfected with a BRRF1 expression vector. Thus there are three promoters in the region of the EBV chromatin containing the BZLF1/BRLF1 genes, two of which, PZ and PNa, potentially share regulatory elements.


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