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The calcium ionophore A23187, which was used to increase the intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i), was analyzed for effects on bovine leukemia virus (BLV) expression in two BLV infected cell lines. To clarify the role of intracellular free calcium in this response, [Ca2+]i was measured during ionophore treatment with the fluorescent calcium indicator Fura-2. Elevation of intracellular calcium under these conditions caused an enhancement of BLV gp51 and p24 synthesis as well as an activation of the BLV long terminal repeat (LTR) in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, it was observed that elevated levels of intracellular calcium following A23187 stimulation lead to activation of NF-kappaB. Based on inhibitor studies, we hypothesize that the effect of A23187 on BLV expression appears to be mediated by PKC.