Transcripts for the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded nuclear antigens are initiated at the alternative promoters Wp, Cp and Qp. Although the host cell-independent activity of Cp is regulated by DNA methylation, Qp is unmethylated independently of its activity. Because histone modifications affect the chromatin structure, we compared the levels of diacetylated histone H3, tetraacetylated histone H4 and histone H3 dimethylated on lysine 4 (H3K4me2) at Cp and Qp, in well characterized cell lines representing the major EBV latency types. We found an activity-dependent histone code: acetylated histones marked active Cp, whereas active Qp was selectively enriched both in acetylated histones and H3K4me2. We concluded that active (but not silent) Cp and Qp are located to 'acetylation islands' in latent, episomal EBV genomes, similar to the active chromatin domains of the human genome.
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