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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Dec;86(23):9558-62.

Epstein-Barr virus nuclear protein 2 is a key determinant of lymphocyte transformation.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) efficiently transforms B lymphocytes to perpetual proliferation. The EBV laboratory strain P3HR-1 is transformation-incompetent and lacks a DNA segment that includes the EBV nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA-2) gene and a portion of the EBNA leader protein (EBNA-LP) gene. These two genes are expressed in transformed B lymphocytes. Recombinant transformation-competent EBVs were produced by transfecting P3HR-1-infected cells with a cosmid containing the DNA deleted in P3HR-1. Deletion of 105 nucleotides from the middle of the EBNA-2 gene had no discernible affect on transformation. Two larger EBNA-2 deletions abolished transformation but did not affect EBNA-2 nuclear localization. Two naturally occurring EBV variants (EBV types 1 and 2) differ extensively in their growth-transformation phenotype and in their EBNA-LP, EBNA-2, and EBNA-3A, -3B, and -3C genes. Recombinant P3HR-1 carrying EBV-1 EBNA-2 has many of the EBV-1 in vitro growth-transforming effects; recombinant P3HR-1, isogenic except for EBV-2 EBNA-2, has many of the EBV-2 growth-transforming effects including slow emergence of transformants, growth in tight clumps with few surrounding viable cells, and early sensitivity to dilution with fresh medium. Thus, EBNA-2 is an essential molecule in lymphocyte growth transformation by EBV and a major determinant of the differences between EBV-1 and EBV-2 in lymphocyte growth transformation.

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