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PLoS One. 2015 Apr 17;10(4):e0121548. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121548. eCollection 2015.

Epstein-Barr virus infection in chronically inflamed periapical granulomas.

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Department of Endodontics, Nihon University School of Dentistry, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Microbiology, Nihon University School of Dentistry, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


Periapical granulomas are lesions around the apex of a tooth caused by a polymicrobial infection. Treatment with antibacterial agents is normally performed to eliminate bacteria from root canals; however, loss of the supporting alveolar bone is typically observed, and tooth extraction is often selected if root canal treatment does not work well. Therefore, bacteria and other microorganisms could be involved in this disease. To understand the pathogenesis of periapical granulomas more precisely, we focused on the association with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) using surgically removed periapical granulomas (n = 32). EBV DNA was detected in 25 of 32 periapical granulomas (78.1%) by real-time PCR, and the median number of EBV DNA copies was approximately 8,688.01/μg total DNA. In contrast, EBV DNA was not detected in healthy gingival tissues (n = 10); the difference was statistically significant according to the Mann-Whitney U test (p = 0.0001). Paraffin sections were also analyzed by in situ hybridization to detect EBV-encoded small RNA (EBER)-expressing cells. EBER was detected in the cytoplasm and nuclei of B cells and plasma cells in six of nine periapical granulomas, but not in healthy gingival tissues. In addition, immunohistochemical analysis for latent membrane protein 1 (LMP-1) of EBV using serial tissue sections showed that LMP-1-expressing cells were localized to the same areas as EBER-expressing cells. These data suggest that B cells and plasma cells in inflamed granulomas are a major source of EBV infection, and that EBV could play a pivotal role in controlling immune cell responses in periapical granulomas.

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