The DNA polymerase (DNApol) and major capsid protein (MCP) genes were used as models to study promoter activity in Chilo iridescent virus (CIV). Infection of Bombyx mori SPC-BM-36 cells in the presence of inhibitors of DNA or protein synthesis showed that DNApol, as well as helicase, is an immediate-early gene and confirmed that the major capsid protein (MCP) is a late gene. Transcription of DNApol initiated 35 nt upstream and that of MCP 14 nt upstream of the translational start site. In a luciferase reporter gene assay both promoters were active only when cells were infected with CIV. For DNApol sequences between position -27 and -6, relative to the transcriptional start site, were essential for promoter activity. Furthermore, mutation of a G within the sequence TTGTTTT located just upstream of the DNApol transcription initiation site reduced the promoter activity by 25%. Sequences crucial for MCP promoter activity are located between positions -53 and -29. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.