THE tat gene of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) plays a central role in the activation and life cycle of HIV. The tat protein (Tat) specifically transactivates HIV transcription in vivo and in vitro1-8, exerting its effects at the level of transcriptional initiation and elongation. Here we report that Tat binds directly to the basal transcription factor TFIID. The transcriptional activity of HeLa extracts was depleted after chromatography on a Tat affinity column, which specifically retained the polymerase II-specific factor TFIID. Direct interaction of Tat with holo-TFIID, composed of TATA-binding protein (TBP) and associated factors (TAFs), was observed. Tat binds, through amino acids 36-50, directly to the TBP subunit of TFIID. Our results suggest that Tat may transduce upstream or downstream regulatory signals by direct interaction with the basal transcription factor TFIID.
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