Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Virology


Geisel School of Medicine


T antigen is able to transactivate gene expression from the simian virus 40 (SV40) late promoter and from several other viral and cellular promoters. Neither the mechanisms of transactivation by T antigen nor the regions of T antigen required for this activity have been determined. To address the latter point, we have measured the ability of a set of SV40 large T antigen mutants to stimulate gene expression in CV-1 monkey kidney cells from the SV40 late promoter and Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter. Transactivation, although reduced, was retained by an N-terminal 138-amino-acid fragment of T antigen. Mutants with alterations at various locations within the N-terminal 85 amino acids transactivated the RSV LTR promoter less well than did wild-type T antigen. Most of these were also partially defective in their ability to transactivate the SV40 late promoter. Two mutants with lesions in the DNA-binding domain that were unable to bind to SV40 DNA were completely defective for transactivation of both promoter, while a third mutant with a lesion in the DNA-binding domain which retained origin-binding activity transactivated both promoters as well as did wild-type T antigen. Only a low level of transactivation was seen with mutant T antigens which had lesions in or near the zinc finger region (amino acids 300 to 350). Mutations which caused defects in ATPase activity, host range/helper function, binding to p53, binding to the retinoblastoma susceptibility protein, or nuclear localization had little or no effect on transactivation. These results suggest that N-terminal portion of T antigen possesses an activation activity. The data are consistent with the idea that the overall conformation of T antigen is important for transactivation and that mutations in other regions that reduce or eliminate transactivation do so by altering the conformation or orientation of the N-terminal region so that its ability to interact with various targets is diminished or abolished.

Original Citation

Zhu JY, Rice PW, Chamberlain M, Cole CN. Mapping the transcriptional transactivation function of simian virus 40 large T antigen. J Virol. 1991;65(6):2778-2790. doi:10.1128/JVI.65.6.2778-2790.1991