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J Virol. 2011 May;85(9):4318-29. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01856-10. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

The Epstein-Barr virus BRRF1 protein, Na, induces lytic infection in a TRAF2- and p53-dependent manner.

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  • 1McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, Department of Oncology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 1400 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) BRRF1 lytic gene product (Na) is encoded within the same immediate-early region as the BZLF1 (Z) and BRLF1(R) gene products, but its role during EBV infection has not been well defined. We previously showed that Na cooperates with the R protein to induce lytic gene expression in latently infected EBV-positive 293 cells, and in some EBV-negative cell lines it can activate the Z promoter in reporter gene assays. Here we show that overexpression of Na alone is sufficient to induce lytic gene expression in several different latently infected epithelial cell lines (Hone-Akata, CNE2-Akata, and AGS-Akata), while knockdown of endogenous Na expression reduces lytic gene expression. Consistent with its ability to interact with tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2) in a yeast two-hybrid assay, we demonstrate that Na interacts with TRAF2 in cells. Furthermore, we show that TRAF2 is required for Na induction of lytic gene expression, that Na induces Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK) activation in a TRAF2-dependent manner, and that a JNK inhibitor abolishes the ability of Na to disrupt viral latency. Additionally, we show that Na and the tumor suppressor protein p53 cooperate to induce lytic gene expression in epithelial cells (including the C666-1 nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell line), although Na does not appear to affect p53 function. Together these data suggest that Na plays an important role in regulating the switch between latent and lytic infection in epithelial cells and that this effect requires both the TRAF2 and p53 cellular proteins.

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