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J Immunol. 2000 Jul 15;165(2):663-70.

Direct immunosuppressive effects of EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Academic Hospital, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. d.dukers@azvu.nl


In neoplastic cells of EBV-positive lymphoid malignancies latent membrane protein (LMP1) is expressed. Because no adequate cellular immune response can be detected against LMP1, we investigated whether LMP1 had a direct effect on T lymphocyte activation. In this study we show that nanogram amounts of purified recombinant LMP1 (rLMP1) strongly suppresses activation of T cells. By sequence alignment two sequences (LALLFWL and LLLLAL) in the first transmembrane domain of LMP1 were identified showing strong homology to the immunosuppressive domain (LDLLFL) of the retrovirus-encoded transmembrane protein p15E. The effects of rLMP1 and LMP1-derived peptides were tested in T cell proliferation and NK cytotoxicity assays and an Ag-induced IFN-gamma release enzyme-linked immunospot assay. LMP1 derived LALLFWL peptides showed strong inhibition of T cell proliferation and NK cytotoxicity, while acetylated LALLFWL peptides had an even stronger effect. In addition, Ag-specific IFN-gamma release was severely inhibited. To exert immunosuppressive effects in vivo, LMP1 has to be excreted from the cells. Indeed, LMP1 was detected in supernatant of EBV-positive B cell lines (LCL), and differential centrifugation in combination with Western blot analysis of the pellets indicated that LMP1 is probably secreted by LCL in the form of exosomes. The amount of secreted LMP1 in B cell cultures is well below the immunosuppressive level observed with rLMP1. Our results demonstrate direct immunosuppressive properties of LMP1 (fragments) and suggest that EBV-positive tumor cells may actively secrete LMP1 and thus mediate immunosuppressive effects on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. Moreover, we demonstrate, for the first time, that transmembrane protein-mediated immunosuppression is not solely restricted to RNA tumor viruses, but can also be found in DNA tumor viruses.

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