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J Virol. 1989 Jul;63(7):3135-41.

5-Azacytidine up regulates the expression of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA-2) through EBNA-6 and latent membrane protein in the Burkitt's lymphoma line rael.

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  • 1Department of Tumor Biology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Nonproductive infection of B lymphocytes by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with a highly restricted expression of viral genes. In growth-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines, the products of these genes include a complex of at least six EBV nuclear antigens (EBNAs) (EBNA-1 through EBNA-6) and one membrane protein (latent membrane protein [LMP]). EBV-carrying Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) biopsies and derived cell lines that have retained a representative phenotype (group I BL lines) express only EBNA-1 (M. Rowe, D. T. Rowe, C. D. Gregory, L. S. Young, P. J. Farrell, H. Rupani, and A. B. Rickinson, EMBO J. 6:2743-2751, 1987). We have found that EBNA-2 through EBNA-6 and LMP can be up regulated by treating the group I BL line Rael with the DNA-demethylating agent 5-azacytidine (5-AzaC). The drug acted in a time- and dose-dependent manner. EBNA-2-positive cells were detected by anti-complement immunofluorescence staining just 12 h after addition of 4 microM 5-AzaC and reached a maximum number at 72 h, when up to 75% of the population was positive. EBNA-2, EBNA-3, EBNA-4, EBNA-4, EBNA-6, and LMP were demonstrated immunoblots starting at 48 h. The EBV-encoded early antigens and viral capsid antigens were also induced but at a lower level. EBNA-2 and the lytic cycle-associated antigens appeared with a different time course and in largely nonoverlapping cell subpopulations, as demonstrated by double fluorescence staining. Thus, EBNA-2 expression was not restricted to lytically infected cells, nor was EBNA-2 required for entry into the lytic cycle. The coding and regulatory sequences of EBNA-2 and LMP were found to be highly methylated in Rael cells and were, as expected, demethylated after 5-AzaC treatment. These findings suggest that DNA methylation may participate in the regulation of growth transformation-associated viral genes in BL cells.

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