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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 13, 1994; 91(19): 9131–9135.
PMCID: PMC44761

Gastric carcinoma: monoclonal epithelial malignant cells expressing Epstein-Barr virus latent infection protein.

Abstract

In 1000 primary gastric carcinomas, 70 (7.0%) contained Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genomic sequences detected by PCR and Southern blots. The positive tumors comprised 8 of 9 (89%) undifferentiated lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas, 27 of 476 (5.7%) poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas, and 35 of 515 (6.8%) moderately to well-differentiated adenocarcinomas. In situ EBV-encoded small RNA 1 hybridization and hematoxylin/eosin staining in adjacent sections showed that the EBV was present in every carcinoma cell but was not significantly present in lymphoid stroma and in normal mucosa. Two-color immunofluorescence and hematoxylin/eosin staining in parallel sections revealed that every keratin-positive epithelial malignant cell expressed EBV-determined nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) but did not significantly express CD45+ infiltrating leukocytes. A single fused terminal fragment was detected in each of the EBNA1-expressing tumors, thereby suggesting that the EBV-carrying gastric carcinomas represent clonal proliferation of cells infected with EBV. The carcinoma cells had exclusively EBNA1 but not EBNA2, -3A, -3B, and -3C; leader protein; and latent membrane protein 1 because of methylation. The patients with EBV-carrying gastric carcinoma had elevated serum EBV-specific antibodies. The EBV-specific cellular immunity was not significantly reduced; however, the cytotoxic T-cell target antigens were not expressed. These findings strongly suggest a causal relation between a significant proportion of gastric carcinoma and EBV, and the virus-carrying carcinoma cells may evade immune surveillance.

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