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Nat Med. 2002 Oct;8(10):1098-104. Epub 2002 Sep 3.

Epstein-Barr virus-associated Burkitt lymphomagenesis selects for downregulation of the nuclear antigen EBNA2.

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  • 1Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is etiologically linked to endemic Burkitt lymphoma (BL), but its contribution to lymphomagenesis, versus that of the chromosomal translocation leading to c-myc gene deregulation, remains unclear. The virus's growth-transforming (Latency III) program of gene expression is extinguished in tumor cells, and only a single viral protein, the EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA)1, is expressed via the alternative Latency I program. It is not known if BL arises from a B-cell subset in which EBV naturally adopts a Latency I infection or if a clone with limited antigen expression has been selected from an EBV-transformed Latency III progenitor pool. Here we identify a subset of BL tumors in which the Latency III-associated EBNA promoter Wp is active and most EBNAs are expressed, but where a gene deletion has specifically abrogated the expression of EBNA2. This implies that BL can be selected from a Latency III progenitor and that the principal selection pressure is for downregulation of the c-Myc antagonist EBNA2.

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