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J Virol. 2010 Jun;84(12):6139-52. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02706-09. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Either ZEB1 or ZEB2/SIP1 can play a central role in regulating the Epstein-Barr virus latent-lytic switch in a cell-type-specific manner.

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McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI 53706-1599, USA.


We previously reported that the cellular protein ZEB1 can repress expression of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) BZLF1 gene in transient transfection assays by directly binding its promoter, Zp. We also reported that EBV containing a 2-bp substitution mutation in the ZEB-binding ZV element of Zp spontaneously reactivated out of latency into lytic replication at a higher frequency than did wild-type EBV. Here, using small interfering RNA (siRNA) and short hairpin RNA (shRNA) technologies, we definitively show that ZEB1 is, indeed, a key player in maintaining EBV latency in some epithelial and B-lymphocytic cell lines. However, in other EBV-positive epithelial and B-cell lines, another zinc finger E-box-binding protein, ZEB2/SIP1, is the key player. Both ZEB1 and ZEB2 can bind Zp via the ZV element. In EBV-positive cells containing only ZEB1, knockdown of ZEB1 led to viral reactivation out of latency, with synthesis of EBV immediate-early and early lytic gene products. However, in EBV-positive cells containing both ZEBs, ZEB2, not ZEB1, was the primary ZEB family member bound to Zp. Knockdown of ZEB2, but not ZEB1, led to EBV lytic reactivation. Thus, we conclude that either ZEB1 or ZEB2 can play a central role in the maintenance of EBV latency, doing so in a cell-type-dependent manner.

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