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Immunity. 1998 Sep;9(3):395-404.

EBV persistence in memory B cells in vivo.

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Department of Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


Epstein-Barr virus establishes latency in vitro by activating human B cells to become proliferating blasts, but in vivo it is benign. In the peripheral blood, the virus resides latently in resting B cells that we now show are restricted to the sIgD memory subset. However, in tonsils the virus shows no such restriction. We propose that EBV indiscriminately infects B cells in mucosal lymphoid tissue and that these cells differentiate to become resting memory B cells that then enter the circulation. Activation to the blastoid stage of latency is an essential intermediate step in this process. Thus, EBV may persist by exploiting the mechanisms that produce and maintain long-term B cell memory.

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