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J Virol. 2013 Aug;87(15):8351-62. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00852-13. Epub 2013 May 22.

CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses to latent antigen EBNA-1 and lytic antigen BZLF-1 during persistent lymphocryptovirus infection of rhesus macaques.

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Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection leads to lifelong viral persistence through its latency in B cells. EBV-specific T cells control reactivations and prevent the development of EBV-associated malignancies in most healthy carriers, but infection can sometimes cause chronic disease and malignant transformation. Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1) is the only viral protein consistently expressed during all forms of latency and in all EBV-associated malignancies and is a promising target for a therapeutic vaccine. Here, we studied the EBNA-1-specific immune response using the EBV-homologous rhesus lymphocryptovirus (rhLCV) infection in rhesus macaques. We assessed the frequency, phenotype, and cytokine production profiles of rhLCV EBNA-1 (rhEBNA-1)-specific T cells in 15 rhesus macaques and compared them to the lytic antigen of rhLCV BZLF-1 (rhBZLF-1). We were able to detect rhEBNA-1-specific CD4(+) and/or CD8(+) T cells in 14 of the 15 animals screened. In comparison, all 15 animals had detectable rhBZLF-1 responses. Most peptide-specific CD4(+) T cells exhibited a resting phenotype of central memory (TCM), while peptide-specific CD8(+) T cells showed a more activated phenotype, belonging mainly to the effector cell subset. By comparing our results to the human EBV immune response, we demonstrate that the rhLCV model is a valid system for studying chronic EBV infection and for the preclinical development of therapeutic vaccines.

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