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EMBO J. 1996 Jun 17;15(12):3117-26.

Expression of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen-1 induces B cell neoplasia in transgenic mice.

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Robertson Building of Biotechnology, Division of Molecular Genetics, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Glasgow University, UK.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) is a pleiotropic protein which has been characterized extensively both biochemically and functionally. It is the only one of the identified latent protein-encoding genes to be consistently expressed in viral-associated endemic Burkitt's lymphoma cells. As such, it is the only candidate viral protein to possibly perform a maintenance function in the tumour pathology. Despite this, no oncogenic activity has been attributed to the protein in tissue culture assays. The experiments described here were initiated to explore the activity of the protein in B cells in vivo. EBNA-1 transgenic mice were generated with transgene expression directed to the B cell compartment using the mouse Ig heavy chain intron enhancer. Transgene expression was demonstrated in the lymphoid tissues of mice of two independent lines. Transgenic positive mice of both lines succumb to B cell lymphoma. The B cell tumours are monoclonal, frequently of follicular centre cell origin and remarkably similar to those induced by transgenic c-myc expression. These results demonstrate that EBNA-1 is oncogenic in vivo and suggest that the gene product may play a direct role in the pathogenesis of Burkitt's lymphoma and possibly other EBV-associated malignancies.

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