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PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(5):e1003314. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003314. Epub 2013 May 2.

The EBV Latent Antigen 3C Inhibits Apoptosis through Targeted Regulation of Interferon Regulatory Factors 4 and 8.

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Department of Microbiology and the Tumor Virology Program, Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is linked to a broad spectrum of B-cell malignancies. EBV nuclear antigen 3C (EBNA3C) is an encoded latent antigen required for growth transformation of primary human B-lymphocytes. Interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) and 8 (IRF8) are transcription factors of the IRF family that regulate diverse functions in B cell development. IRF4 is an oncoprotein with anti-apoptotic properties and IRF8 functions as a regulator of apoptosis and tumor suppressor in many hematopoietic malignancies. We now demonstrate that EBNA3C can contribute to B-cell transformation by modulating the molecular interplay between cellular IRF4 and IRF8. We show that EBNA3C physically interacts with IRF4 and IRF8 with its N-terminal domain in vitro and forms a molecular complex in cells. We identified the Spi-1/B motif of IRF4 as critical for EBNA3C interaction. We also demonstrated that EBNA3C can stabilize IRF4, which leads to downregulation of IRF8 by enhancing its proteasome-mediated degradation. Further, si-RNA mediated knock-down of endogenous IRF4 results in a substantial reduction in proliferation of EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), as well as augmentation of DNA damage-induced apoptosis. IRF4 knockdown also showed reduced expression of its targeted downstream signalling proteins which include CDK6, Cyclin B1 and c-Myc all critical for cell proliferation. These studies provide novel insights into the contribution of EBNA3C to EBV-mediated B-cell transformation through regulation of IRF4 and IRF8 and add another molecular link to the mechanisms by which EBV dysregulates cellular activities, increasing the potential for therapeutic intervention against EBV-associated cancers.

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