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Am J Pathol. 1995 Jun;146(6):1355-67.

Undifferentiated, nonkeratinizing, and squamous cell carcinoma of the nasopharynx. Variants of Epstein-Barr virus-infected neoplasia.

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Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) samples of distinct histological types, including squamous cell carcinoma (WHO type 1), nonkeratinizing carcinoma (WHO type 2), and undifferentiated carcinoma (WHO type 3), were analyzed for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and gene expression by using in situ and biochemical techniques. The EBV-encoded RNAs (EBER) were detected in situ in most tumor cells of all three WHO types of NPC. In foci of squamous differentiation and keratinization within less differentiated NPC and throughout the expanse of well differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, EBER expression was less abundant. Latent membrane protein, an EBV-encoded membrane protein, was detected in 72% (36/50) of all NPC and 67% (6/9) of the cases of squamous cell carcinoma. The EBV genomes were present as clonal episomal forms, without detectable linear viral DNA, in all cases of squamous cell carcinoma analyzed. Polymerase chain reaction amplification of cDNA detected EBV transcription for Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1, latent membrane proteins 1 and 2, and BamHI A in all samples, indicating that all forms of NPC express the same EBV genes. These results reveal that EBER expression is significantly decreased in areas with squamous differentiation and confirm that all types of NPC, regardless of histological type or differentiation contain clonal episomal EBV genomes, express specific EBV genes and are a clonal expansion of EBV-infected cells.

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