Seven virus-coded proteins, the nuclear proteins EBNA-1 to EBNA-6 and the latent membrane protein (LMP), are regularly expressed in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines. In nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), only EBNA-1 is regularly expressed; LMP is detected in about 65% of the tumors. In Burkitt's lymphoma tumors only EBNA-1 is expressed. We have recently shown that the methylation patterns of the EBV genome varied between these cell types. In virally transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines of normal origin, the EBV DNA is completely unmethylated. In contrast, in the Burkitt's lymphoma-derived cell line Rael and in a nude mouse-passaged NPC tumor, C15, there was an extensive methylation of CpG pairs. The methylation extended into the coding regions of the two expressed genes, EBNA-1 (in both tumor types) and LMP (in C15). Two presumptive control regions were exempted from this overall methylation: the oriP that contains both an origin of DNA replication and an EBNA-1-dependent enhancer and the 5'-flanking region of the BNLF-1 open reading frame that codes for LMP. The latter was only exempted in the LMP expressing NPC. We have now investigated the relation between expression of LMP and methylation of DNA in the 5'-flanking 1 kb region of BNLF-1, coding for LMP. LMP was methylated in 3 of 12 NPC biopsies that did not express LMP but was partially or totally unmethylated in the remaining 9 that expressed the protein. The three BNLF-1 exons were highly methylated in all the tumors. The oriP region was unmethylated in all the tumors, as in the previously studied Rael cell line and nude mouse-passaged NPC. Also, the BamHI W enhancer region involved in the expression of EBNA nuclear proteins was methylated. None of the biopsies expressed EBNA-2. Our data show that the EBV genomes are highly methylated in NPC tumors. The strong reverse correlation between the methylation of the putative control region of the LMP gene and the expression of LMP suggests that methylation has a role in the regulation of this gene.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science