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Life Sci. 1999;65(14):1433-53.

A model for persistent infection with Epstein-Barr virus: the stealth virus of human B cells.

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Dept. of Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA. DLawson@Opal.Tufts.Edu


Most adult humans are infected benignly and for life with the herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus. EBV has been a focus of research because of its status as a candidate tumor virus for a number of lymphomas and carcinomas. In vitro EBV has the ability to establish a latent infection in proliferating B lymphoblasts. This is the only system available for studying human herpesvirus latency in culture and has been extremely useful for elucidating how EBV promotes cellular growth. However, to understand how EBV survives in the healthy host and what goes awry, leading to disease, it is essential to know how EBV establishes and maintains a persistent infection in vivo. Early studies on the mechanism of EBV persistence produced inconclusive and often contradictory results because the techniques available were crude and insensitive. Recent advances in PCR technology and the application of sophisticated cell fractionation techniques have now provided new insights into the behavior of the virus. Most dramatically it has been shown that EBV in vivo does not establish latency in a proliferating lymphoblast, but in a resting memory B cell. The contrasting behaviors of being able to establish a latent infection in proliferating B blasts and resting memory B cells can be resolved in terms of a model where EBV performs its complete life cycle in B lymphocytes. The virus achieves this not by disrupting normal B cell biology but by using it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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