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Nature. 1988 Feb 25;331(6158):719-21.

Cytotoxic T-cell clones discriminate between A- and B-type Epstein-Barr virus transformants.

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Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Herston, Brisbane, Australia.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the aetiological agent of infectious mononucleosis and is associated with Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The virus is harboured for life in all previously infected individuals and is apparently controlled by a population of EBV-specific memory T lymphocytes, specifically activated to recognize the functionally defined lymphocyte-detected membrane antigen. Two types (A and B) of EBV have been identified that show DNA sequence divergence within the BamH1 WYH region of the genome encoding the transformation-associated antigen, Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA 2) (ref. 4). To define the function of EBNA 2 in T-cell recognition, we have compared the ability of EBV-specific cytotoxic T-cell clones to distinguish between autologous B lymphocytes transformed by A- or B-type virus. We have now isolated both CD4 and CD8 cytotoxic T-cell clones that recognize autologous A-type but not B-type transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines, thus providing the first evidence that EBV-specific T-cell recognition can be mediated by EBNA 2. As this antigen is not expressed in Burkitt's lymphoma, this finding explains the failure of EBV-specific T-cell surveillance to eliminate the tumour.

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