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J Virol. 2014 Apr;88(7):3776-88. doi: 10.1128/JVI.03568-13. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Epstein-Barr virus essential antigen EBNA3C attenuates H2AX expression.

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Department of Microbiology and Tumor Virology Program, Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent antigen EBNA3C is implicated in B-cell immortalization and linked to several B-cell malignancies. Deregulation of H2AX can induce genomic instability with increased chromosomal aberrations, which ultimately leads to tumorigenesis. Here we demonstrated that EBNA3C can attenuate H2AX expression at the transcript and protein levels. A reduction of total H2AX levels was clearly observed upon infection of primary B cells with wild-type EBV but not with EBNA3C knockout recombinant EBV. H2AX also interacted with EBNA3C through its N-terminal domain (residues 1 to 100). Furthermore, H2AX mutated at Ser139 failed to interact with EBNA3C. Luciferase-based reporter assays also revealed that the binding domain of EBNA3C is sufficient for transcriptional inhibition of the H2AX promoter. EBNA3C also facilitated H2AX degradation through recruitment of components of the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. We further demonstrated that knockdown of H2AX in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) led to the upregulation of the Bub1 oncoprotein and downregulated expression of p53. Overall, our study provides additional insights into EBV-associated B-cell lymphomas, which are linked to the regulation of the DNA damage response system in infected cells. The importance of these insights are as follows: (i) EBNA3C downregulates H2AX expression at the protein and transcript levels in epithelial cells, B cells, and EBV-transformed LCLs, (ii) EBNA3C binds with wild-type H2AX but not with the Ser139 mutant of H2AX, (iii) the N terminus (residues 1 to 100) of EBNA3C is critical for binding to H2AX, (iv) localization of H2AX is predominantly nuclear in the presence of EBNA3C, and (v) H2AX knocked down in LCLs led to enhanced expression of Bub1 and downregulation of the tumor suppressor p53, which are both important for driving the oncogenic process.

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