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Messerle, Martin; Keil, Günther M.; Bühler, Bernhard; Koszinowski, Ulrich H. (1992): Structural organization, expression, and functional characterization of the murine cytomegalovirus immediate-early gene 3. In: Journal of Virology, Vol. 66: pp. 27-36




We have previously defined ie3 as a coding region located downstream of the ie1 gene which gives rise to a 2.75-kb immediate-early (IE) transcript. Here we describe the structural organization of the ie3 gene, the amino acid sequence of the gene product, and some of the functional properties of the protein. The 2.75-kb ie3 mRNA is generated by splicing and is composed of four exons. The first three exons, of 300, 111, and 191 nucleotides (nt), are shared with the ie1 mRNA and are spliced to exon 5, which is located downstream of the fourth exon used by the ie1 mRNA. Exon 5 starts 28 nt downstream of the 3' end of the ie1 mRNA and has a length of 1,701 nt. The IE3 protein contains 611 amino acids, the first 99 of which are shared with the ie1 product pp89. The IE3 protein expressed at IE times has a relative mobility of 88 kDa in gels, and a mobility shift to 90 kDa during the early phase is indicative of posttranslational modification. Sequence comparison reveals significant homology of the exon 5-encoded amino acid sequence with the respective sequence of UL 122, a component of the IE1-IE2 complex of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). This homology is also apparent at the functional level. The IE3 protein is a strong transcriptional activator of the murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) e1 promoter and shows an autoregulatory function by repression of the MCMV ie1/ie3 promoter. The high degree of conservation between the MCMV ie3 and HCMV IE2 genes and their products with regard to gene structure, amino acid sequence, and protein functions suggests that these genes play a comparable role in the transcriptional control of the two cytomegaloviruses.