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Curr Opin Virol. 2013 Jun;3(3):260-5. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2013.03.005. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

Epstein-Barr virus and host cell methylation: regulation of latency, replication and virus reactivation.

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Research Unit Gene Vectors, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Munich, Germany.


Epigenetic mechanisms govern the different life phases of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). In the first prelatent phase the viral DNA acquires nucleosomes, histone marks are established, and 5'-methyl cytosine residues become detectable. In the latent phase repressive histone marks and extensive DNA methylation silence the majority of viral promoters sparing a few latent genes. DNA methylation is a prerequisite for the induction of EBV's lytic phase in order to escape from latency and give rise to viral progeny. All three phases rely on the different epigenetic states of viral DNA and the availability of viral and cellular factors. EBV exploits cellular mechanisms of epigenetic regulation for its different life phases and serves as a marvelous example of an intimate host-pathogen relationship.

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