A strong early promoter from the T1 open reading frame (ORF) within the terminal inverted repeat (TIR) of Shope fibroma virus (SFV) has been isolated and characterized. Promoter activity was determined by a transient gene expression assay in poxvirus-infected cells using the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase as a reporter gene. The sequences which constitute the boundaries of the promoter element were determined by 5′ and 3′ deletion analysis. The functional SFV T1 promoter domain comprises about 28 by and includes, in addition to the transcriptional initiation site, a stretch of eight continuous A residues from position -18 to -11 which is critical for promoter function. Both the SFV T1 promoter and the vaccinia 7.5-kDa early/late promoter are active in the transient expression assay when the cells are infected with either the leporipoxvirus SFV or the orthopoxvirus vaccinia. To look more closely at the conservation of promoter function between poxvirus genera, a recombinant vaccinia virus containing the CAT gene driven by the SFV T1 promoter and a recombinant SFV containing the CAT gene driven by the vaccinia 7.5-kDa early/late promoters was constructed. The SFV T1 promoter behaves as an early promoter in the vaccinia genome, and both the T1 and the 7.5-kDa early/late promoters use transcriptional initiation sites in their heterologous genomic environment that are identical to the ones used in the native viral genome. The results from this work indicate that despite the relative lack of absolute sequence conservation, the transcriptional machinery, at least with respect to temporal regulation of early promoters and the position of transcript initiation, is conserved between these two poxvirus genera.
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