Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) drives the proliferation of human B cells in vitro and during primary infection in vivo. The transformed immunoblasts express nuclear proteins EBNA1-6, transcribed from the Cp/Wp promoter, and the membrane proteins LMP-1, -2A and -2B (lymphoblastoid type of latency). EBV persists through life in resting memory B cells with a restricted type of latency in the absence of the Cp/Wp promoter activity. Since CD40 crosslinking can reportedly inhibit the growth of EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), we have examined the effect of CD40 ligation on the expression of EBNAs and LMP-1 and on Cp EBV promoter activity together with several phenotypic markers. CD40 crosslinking led to a partial downregulation of EBNA-2, EBNA3-6 and LMP-1 in LCLs, paralleled by downregulation of Cp promoter activity. It also induced up-regulation of the germinal center marker CD77 on the LCL cells. Our findings suggest that the encounter of proliferating EBV-transformed immunoblasts with CD40L, as would occur when normal B cells generate memory cells in germinal centers, may switch the viral transcription program from the full lymphoblastoid to a more restricted latency program in a proportion of cells. This would permit virus persistence in the B-cell memory compartment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research