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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Oct 1;88(19):8332-6.

Expression of proteins encoded by Epstein-Barr virus trans-activator genes depends on the differentiation of epithelial cells in oral hairy leukoplakia.

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  • 1Abteilung für zahnärztliche Chirurgie/Oralchirurgie Freie Universität, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) immediate early gene product BZLF1 was localized by indirect immunofluorescence to the cytoplasm of the basal epithelial layer at the lateral border and dorsum of tongue in human immunodeficiency virus-infected and -seronegative patients. Two biopsies of oral hairy leukoplakia revealed a sporadic cytoplasmic staining of the BHRF1 and BRLF1 gene products in the basal epithelial layer. The widespread presence of BZLF1 in the basal epithelial layer indicated that this cell layer contained EBV DNA and was probably directly infected by EBV. Nuclear localization of the immediate early and early gene products BZLF1, BHRF1, BRLF1, and BMLF1 was limited to oral hairy leukoplakia in human immunodeficiency virus-seropositive patients and revealed a codistribution with the virus capsid antigen. Our results indicate that the epithelium of the tongue is a potential reservoir for EBV and that in heavily immunocompromised patients EBV may move from the cytoplasm to the nucleus with increasing differentiation and be coactivated there during the terminal differentiation of epithelial cells at the lateral border and dorsum of tongue.

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