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PLoS Pathog. 2008 Oct 3;4(10):e1000170. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000170.

Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 contributes to nasopharyngeal carcinoma through disruption of PML nuclear bodies.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is strongly associated with several cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), a tumor that is endemic in several parts of the world. We have investigated the molecular basis for how EBV latent infection promotes the development of NPC. We show that the viral EBNA1 protein, previously known to be required to maintain the EBV episomes, also causes the disruption of the cellular PML (promyelocytic leukemia) nuclear bodies (or ND10s). This disruption occurs both in the context of a native latent infection and when exogenously expressed in EBV-negative NPC cells and involves loss of the PML proteins. We also show that EBNA1 is partially localized to PML nuclear bodies in NPC cells and interacts with a specific PML isoform. PML disruption by EBNA1 requires binding to the cellular ubiquitin specific protease, USP7 or HAUSP, but is independent of p53. We further observed that p53 activation, DNA repair and apoptosis, all of which depend on PML nuclear bodies, were impaired by EBNA1 expression and that cells expressing EBNA1 were more likely to survive after induction of DNA damage. The results point to an important role for EBNA1 in the development of NPC, in which EBNA1-mediated disruption of PML nuclear bodies promotes the survival of cells with DNA damage.

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