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J Virol. 2004 Jan;78(2):868-81.

Potential selection of LMP1 variants in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7295, USA.


Seven distinct sequence variants of the Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) have been identified by distinguishing amino acid changes in the carboxy-terminal domain. In this study the transmembrane domains are shown to segregate identically with the distinct carboxy-terminal amino acid sequences. Since strains of LMP1 have been shown to differ in abundance between blood and throat washes, nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPCs) from areas of endemicity and nonendemicity with matching blood were analyzed by using a heteroduplex tracking assay to distinguish LMP1 variants. Striking differences were found between the compartments with the Ch1 strain prevalent in the NPCs from areas of endemicity and nonendemicity and the B958 strain prevalent in the blood of the endemic samples, whereas multiple strains of LMP1 were prevalent in the blood of the nonendemic samples. The possible selection against the B958 strain appearing in the tumor was highly significant (P < 0.0001). Sequence analysis of the full-length LMP1 variants revealed changes in many of the known and computer-predicted HLA-restricted epitopes with changes in key positions in multiple, potential epitopes for the specific HLA of the patients. These amino acid substitutions at key positions in the LMP1 epitopes may result in a reduced cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte response. These data indicate that strains with specific variants of LMP1 are more likely to be found in NPC. The predominance of specific LMP1 variants in NPC could reflect differences in the biologic or molecular properties of the distinct forms of LMP1 or possible immune selection.

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