Two elements in the bovine leukemia virus long terminal repeat that regulate gene expression

Science  21 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4744, pp. 1437-1440
DOI: 10.1126/science.3006241


The bovine leukemia virus, like the human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLV-I and HTLV-II), are unusual biologically in that viral transcripts are not detected in tumors or infected tissues. The bovine leukemia virus long terminal repeat (BLV LTR) functions as a transcriptional promoter only in cell lines productively infected with BLV. Deletion mapping indicated that at least two regions of the LTR, on the 5' and 3' sides of the RNA start site, influenced gene expression. An analysis has now been made of the effects of coupling sequences from these LTR regions to a heterologous core promoter derived from the SV40 early promoter unit. Through the use of the transient expression of the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene to monitor transcriptional activity in vivo, two independent, regulatory elements were identified in the BLV LTR. One was present in a fragment of 75 base pairs derived from the U3 region of the LTR and behaved much like other enhancer elements. It may be a major determinant of BLV expression in productively infected cell lines, since it enhanced transcription controlled by the heterologous core promoter only in these cells. The second element was contained in a 250-bp fragment derived from LTR sequences in the R region, located downstream from the RNA start site. Its activation of CAT expression was not dependent on BLV infection and was evident only when the fragment was located immediately downstream from the RNA start site. BLV expression thus appears to be regulated in part by a cell-specific enhancer element upstream from the core promoter and a novel sequence downstream from the RNA initiation site in the viral LTR.