Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) encodes putative helicase-primase proteins BBLF4, BSLF1 and BBLF2/3, which are essential for the lytic phase of viral DNA replication. The BSLF1, BBLF4 and BBLF2/3 proteins were expressed in B95-8 cells after induction of a virus productive cycle, possessing apparent molecular masses of 89 kDa, 90 kDa and 80 kDa, respectively. The anti-BSLF1 or anti-BBLF2/3 protein-specific antibody, which recognizes its target protein in both Western blotting and immunoprecipitation analyses, immunoprecipitated all of the BSLF1, BBLF4 and BBLF2/3 proteins from the extract of the cells with a virus productive cycle, indicating that these viral proteins are assembled together in vivo. To characterize their protein-protein interactions in detail, recombinant baculoviruses capable of expressing each of these viral gene products in insect cells were constructed. The assembly of the three virus replication proteins was reproduced in insect cells co-infected with the three recombinant baculoviruses, indicating that complex formation does not require other EBV replication proteins. Furthermore, experiments performed by using the extracts from insect cells co-infected with each pair of the recombinant viruses demonstrated that the BSLF 1 protein could interact separately with both the BBLF4 and BBLF2/3 proteins and that the BBLF2/3 protein also interacted with the BBLF4 protein. These observations strongly suggest that within the BBLF4-BSLF1-BBLF2/3 complex each component interacts directly with the other two, resulting in helicase-primase enzyme activity.
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