Transcriptional regulation of the interleukin-6 gene of human herpesvirus 8 (Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus)

Hongyu Deng, Moon Jung Song, Julia T. Chu, Ren Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8; Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus is linked to Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), and multicentric Castleman's disease (MCD), all of which are viewed as cytokine-driven malignancies. In particular, interleukin-6 (IL-6) has been found to promote the growth and proliferation of cells from KS and PEL. HHV-8 encodes a homologue of IL-6 (viral IL-6 [vIL-6]), which functions similarly to the cellular IL-6, Therefore, vIL-6 has been proposed to play an important role in tumor progression. Several groups have reported that vIL-6 is expressed from the HHV-8 genome at higher levels in PEL and MCD lesions than in KS lesions, However, it is not clear how vIL-6 expression is regulated. We characterized the transcription at the vIL-6 gene locus by Northern blot analysis and, in contrast to previous reports, we observed two distinct transcripts from induced PEL cell lines. This observation was confirmed by primer extension, as well as 5′ and 3′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends. Two transcription initiation sites and putative TATA boxes were mapped. A luciferase reporter system was used to show that each of the two putative TATA boxes contributed to vIL-6 promoter activity. Since virally encoded transcriptional activator Rta potently activates the viral lytic gene expression cascade, we examined the role of Rta in controlling vIL-6 gene expression and found that Rta activated the vIL-6 promoter. The Rta-responsive element was further mapped through a series of deletion constructs. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that Rta binds directly to the vIL-6 Rta-responsive element, and the core Rta-responsive element was mapped to a 26-bp region spanning from nucleotide 18315 to 18290 on the viral genome. We propose that the existence of two vIL-6 promoters offers opportunities for differential regulation of vIL-6 gene expression in different tissue types and may account for the variable vIL-6 levels observed in KS, PEL, and MCD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8252-8264
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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