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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Dec;82(23):8090-4.

Cellular and viral DNA hypomethylation associated with induction of Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) producer and nonproducer cell lines have been treated with a combination of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and n-butyrate (sodium salt). These inducers caused a massive hypomethylation of the EBV producer line P3HR-1 DNA (about 30%) at the time when DNA replication was inhibited. The viral DNA in these cells is heavily methylated as judged by digestion with Hpa II and probing with the Bam HI H fragment of EBV. However, upon induction with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and n-butyrate, total hypomethylation of this viral DNA region was observed within 24 hr. This hypomethylation preceded EBV amplification, which became apparent only 32-36 hr after induction. When induction was carried out in the presence of retinoic acid, hypomethylation of cellular and viral DNA, viral DNA amplification, and production of the viral early antigen and viral capsid antigen were substantially inhibited. EBV DNA in another producer line (Jijoye nude) and in the nonproducer line Raji was hypomethylated and did not undergo further hypomethylation in response to induction. The observed hypomethylation of P3HR-1 and EBV DNA in the absence of DNA replication suggests that it is achieved by an active demethylation mechanism. This changes our perception of the DNA methylation phenomenon, since it has been generally accepted that hypomethylation of DNA takes place by a passive mechanism that involves DNA replication in the absence of methylation.

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