The promoters of the latency-associated transcripts (LATs) of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) strains KOS and McKrae were compared to examine their influence upon the reactivation phenotypes of these two strains. Unlike strain KOS, McKrae is readily reactivatable using in vivo reactivation models. We found greater than 96% sequence conservation between KOS and McKrae in the LATs promoter region, and both promoters showed equivalent basal and inducible activities. An inter-strain recombinant (termed MK13) was constructed in which the LATs promoter of HSV-1 McKrae was recombined into the background of HSV-1 strain KOS. In a murine u.v. light-induced reactivation model, virus shedding was detected by eye swabbing in two of 44 (5%) mice infected with KOS, 20 of 42 (48%) mice infected with McKrae and none of 45 (0%) mice infected with MK13. These data show that the LATs promoters of these viruses are structurally and functionally similar and that transfer of the LATs promoter from McKrae into KOS is insufficient to confer a reactivatable phenotype.