The architecture of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) origin of DNA replication (OriS) differs significantly from that of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) DNA replication origin. Novel aspects of the VZV OriS include a GA-rich region, three binding sites for the VZV origin-binding protein (OBP) all on the same strand and oriented in the same direction, and a partial OBP binding site of unknown function. We have designated this partial binding site Box D and have investigated the role it plays in DNA replication and flanking gene expression. This has been done with a model system using a replication-competent plasmid containing OriS and a replication- and transcription-competent dual-luciferase reporter plasmid containing both the OriS and the intergenic region between VZV open reading frames (ORFs) 62 and 63. We have found that (i) Box D is a negative regulator of DNA replication independent of flanking gene expression, (ii) the mutation of Box D results in a decrease in flanking gene expression, thus a sequence within the VZV OriS affects transcription, which is in contrast to results reported for HSV-1, (iii) there is a specific Box D complex formed with infected cell extracts in electrophoretic mobility shift assay experiments, (iv) supershift assays show that this complex contains the VZV ORF29 single-strand DNA-binding protein, and (v) the formation of this complex is dependent on the presence of CGC motifs in Box D and its downstream flanking region. These findings show that the VZV ORF29 protein, while required for DNA replication, also plays a novel role in the suppression of that process.
By Mohamed I. Khalil, Ann Arvin, Jeremy Jones & William T. Ruyechan