Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) encodes several alpha (immediate-early) gene products that modulate gene expression during viral replication. We report here that the alpha protein ICP27 specifically stimulates expression of a later viral gene, that encoding glycoprotein B (gB). Using temperature-sensitive viral mutants, the effect of ICP27 on HSV-1 protein synthesis was examined at early times after infection or at later times when viral DNA replication was inhibited. Under these conditions, the expression of gB showed a marked dependence on the presence of functional ICP27, whereas several other beta and gamma 1 genes showed a lesser dependence. It was also noted that cells infected with ICP27 temperature sensitive mutants at the nonpermissive temperature showed a reduction in the electrophoretic mobility of the alpha protein ICP4. To examine the mechanism by which ICP27 stimulated gB expression, a plasmid was constructed in which the promoter regulatory region of the gB gene was fused to the gene encoding chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). CAT expression from this plasmid was induced significantly by ICP27 expressed from a cotransfected plasmid. Induction of CAT activity by ICP27 correlated well with an increase in the amount of CAT transcripts initiated from the transcriptional start site of the gB gene. The transactivating activity of ICP27 was specific for the gB promoter-regulatory region, as expression from several other HSV-1 promoter-CAT chimeric genes was not stimulated by ICP27. The DNA sequences which conferred the response to ICP27 mapped within 175 base pairs upstream and 41 base pairs downstream of the gB transcriptional start site. Our results suggest that the full expression of gB and perhaps other viral genes during HSV-1 infection requires the combined action of multiple viral transactivators.