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J Virol. 2012 Jan;86(2):1034-45. doi: 10.1128/JVI.05923-11. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Contributions of CTCF and DNA methyltransferases DNMT1 and DNMT3B to Epstein-Barr virus restricted latency.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, and Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA.


Establishment of persistent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection requires transition from a program of full viral latency gene expression (latency III) to one that is highly restricted (latency I and 0) within memory B lymphocytes. It is well established that DNA methylation plays a critical role in EBV gene silencing, and recently the chromatin boundary protein CTCF has been implicated as a pivotal regulator of latency via its binding to several loci within the EBV genome. One notable site is upstream of the common EBNA gene promoter Cp, at which CTCF may act as an enhancer-blocking factor to initiate and maintain silencing of EBNA gene transcription. It was previously suggested that increased expression of CTCF may underlie its potential to promote restricted latency, and here we also noted elevated levels of DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) and DNMT3B associated with latency I. Within B-cell lines that maintain latency I, however, stable knockdown of CTCF, DNMT1, or DNMT3B or of DNMT1 and DNMT3B in combination did not result in activation of latency III protein expression or EBNA gene transcription, nor did knockdown of DNMTs significantly alter CpG methylation within Cp. Thus, differential expression of CTCF and DNMT1 and -3B is not critical for maintenance of restricted latency. Finally, mutant EBV lacking the Cp CTCF binding site exhibited sustained Cp activity relative to wild-type EBV in a recently developed B-cell superinfection model but ultimately was able to transition to latency I, suggesting that CTCF contributes to but is not necessarily essential for the establishment of restricted latency.

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