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J Virol. 2006 Nov;80(21):10700-11. Epub 2006 Aug 18.

Methylation status of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) BamHI W latent cycle promoter and promoter activity: analysis with novel EBV-positive Burkitt and lymphoblastoid cell lines.

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  • 1Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent cycle promoter Wp, present in each tandemly arrayed copy of the BamHI W region in the EBV genome, drives expression of the EB viral nuclear antigens (EBNAs) at the initiation of virus-induced B-cell transformation. Thereafter, an alternative EBNA promoter, Cp, becomes dominant, Wp activity declines dramatically, and bisulfite sequencing of EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) shows extensive Wp methylation. Despite this, Wp is never completely silenced in LCLs. Here, using a combination of bisulfite sequencing and methylation-specific PCR, we show that in standard LCLs transformed with wild-type EBV isolates, some Wp copies always remain unmethylated, and in LCLs transformed with a recombinant EBV carrying just two BamHI W copies, Wp is completely unmethylated. Furthermore, we have analyzed rare LCLs, recently established using wild-type EBV isolates, and rare Burkitt lymphoma (BL) cell clones, recently established from tumors carrying EBNA2-deleted EBV genomes, which express EBNAs exclusively from Wp-initiated transcripts. Here, in sharp contrast to standard LCL and BL lines, all resident copies of Wp appear to be predominantly hypomethylated. Thus, studies of B cells with atypical patterns of Wp usage emphasize the strong correlation between the presence of unmethylated Wp sequences and promoter activity.

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