JC virus promoter/enhancers contain TATA box-associated Spi-B-binding sites that support early viral gene expression in primary astrocytes

J Gen Virol. 2012 Mar;93(Pt 3):651-661. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.035832-0. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


JC virus (JCV) is the aetiological agent of the demyelinating disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, an AIDS defining illness and serious complication of mAb therapies. Initial infection probably occurs in childhood. In the working model of dissemination, virus persists in the kidney and lymphoid tissues until immune suppression/modulation causes reactivation and trafficking to the brain where JCV replicates in oligodendrocytes. JCV infection is regulated through binding of host factors such as Spi-B to, and sequence variation in the non-coding control region (NCCR). Although NCCR sequences differ between sites of persistence and pathogenesis, evidence suggests that the virus that initiates infection in the brain disseminates via B-cells derived from latently infected haematopoietic precursors in the bone marrow. Spi-B binds adjacent to TATA boxes in the promoter/enhancer of the PML-associated JCV Mad-1 and Mad-4 viruses but not the non-pathogenic, kidney-associated archetype. The Spi-B-binding site of Mad-1/Mad-4 differs from that of archetype by a single nucleotide, AAAAGGGAAGGGA to AAAAGGGAAGGTA. Point mutation of the Mad-1 Spi-B site reduced early viral protein large T-antigen expression by up to fourfold. Strikingly, the reverse mutation in the archetype NCCR increased large T-antigen expression by 10-fold. Interestingly, Spi-B protein binds the NCCR sequence flanking the viral promoter/enhancer, but these sites are not essential for early viral gene expression. The effect of mutating Spi-B-binding sites within the JCV promoter/enhancer on early viral gene expression strongly suggests a role for Spi-B binding to the viral promoter/enhancer in the activation of early viral gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / virology*
  • Binding Sites
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral*
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / genetics
  • JC Virus / growth & development*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Protein Binding
  • TATA Box*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • SPIB protein, human