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J Virol. 1991 Apr;65(4):1701-9.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) recombinants: use of positive selection markers to rescue mutants in EBV-negative B-lymphoma cells.

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Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


The objective of these experiments was to develop strategies for creation and identification of recombinant mutant Epstein-Barr viruses (EBV). EBV recombinant molecular genetics has been limited to mutations within a short DNA segment deleted from a nontransforming EBV and an underlying strategy which relies on growth transformation of primary B lymphocytes for identification of recombinants. Thus, mutations outside the deletion or mutations which affect transformation cannot be easily recovered. In these experiments we investigated whether a toxic drug resistance gene, guanine phosphoribosyltransferase or hygromycin phosphotransferase, driven by the simian virus 40 promoter can be recombined into the EBV genome and can function to identify B-lymphoma cells infected with recombinant virus. Two different strategies were used to recombine the drug resistance marker into the EBV genome. Both utilized transfection of partially permissive, EBV-infected B95-8 cells and positive selection for cells which had incorporated a functional drug resistance gene. In the first series of experiments, B95-8 clones were screened for transfected DNA that had recombined into the EBV genome. In the second series of experiments, the transfected drug resistance marker was linked to the plasmid and lytic EBV origins so that it was maintained as an episome and could recombine with the B95-8 EBV genome during virus replication. The recombinant EBV from either experiment could be recovered by infection and toxic drug selection of EBV-negative B-lymphoma cells. The EBV genome in these B-lymphoma cells is frequently an episome. Virus genes associated with latent infection of primary B lymphocytes are expressed. Expression of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA-2) and the EBNA-3 genes is variable relative to that of EBNA-1, as is characteristic of some naturally infected Burkitt tumor cells. Moreover, the EBV-infected B-lymphoma cells are often partially permissive for early replicative cycle gene expression and virus replication can be induced, in contrast to previously reported in vitro infected B-lymphoma cells. These studies demonstrate that dominant selectable markers can be inserted into the EBV genome, are active in the context of the EBV genome, and can be used to recover recombinant EBV in B-lymphoma cells. This system should be particularly useful for recovering EBV genomes with mutations in essential transforming genes.

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