Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a lymphotropic herpesvirus, and in vitro, it can productively infect human CD4+ T cells as HIV-1. Co-infection of T cells by HIV-1 and HHV-6 can lead to both activation of the HIV-1 promoter and acceleration of the cytopathic effects. An HHV-6 (GS) cDNA clone, pCD41, encoding for a 41-kDa nuclear protein was identified and characterized previously (Chang and Balachandran, J. Virol. 65, 2884-2894 and 7085, 1991). Sequence analyses show that this protein has significant hemology with the human cytomegalovirus UL44 gene coding for the ICP36 family of early-late-class phosphoprotein. Using this cDNA as the probe, a 3.8-kb EcoRI genomic fragment encoding the HHV-6(GS)P41 was cloned and designated as pGD41. When cotransfected with the HIV LTR CAT into CV-1 cells, both the pCD41 and pGD41 clones trans-activated the HIV LTR. Sequence analyses of pCD41 indicate that there are two potential open reading frames (ORFs), A and B, which are homologous to the ORFs found in the genomic clone pGD41. Deletion constructs of the pCD41 clone demonstrated that ORF-A was critical for the HIV LTR activation. Deletion analyses of the pCD41 ORF-A and the use of promoter constructs further mapped an internal functional promoter within the pCD41 sequence that can direct the synthesis of the trans -activating protein. By using HIV LTR deletion mutants, the NF-κB binding sites were found to be critical for response to the pCD41 trans -activation.
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