Unique Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent gene expression, EBNA promoter usage and EBNA promoter methylation status in chronic active EBV infection.J Gen Virol 2003; 84(Pt 5):1133-40JG
Chronic active Epstein-Barr virus infection (CAEBV) has been considered to be a non-neoplastic T-cell lymphoproliferative disease associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. In EBV-associated diseases, the cell phenotype-dependent differences in EBV latent gene expression may reflect the strategy of the virus in relation to latent infection. We previously reported that EBV latent gene expression was restricted; EBV nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) transcripts were consistently detected in all spleen samples from five CAEBV patients, but EBNA2 transcripts were detected in only one sample. EBV latent gene expression is controlled by distinct usage of three EBNA promoters (Cp, Wp and Qp). In this study, we examined the EBNA promoter usage by RT-PCR and the methylation status in the Cp and Wp regions using bisulfite PCR analysis in spleen samples from CAEBV patients. EBNA1 transcripts were unexpectedly initiated not from Qp but from Cp in all samples in spite of the restricted form of latency. Furthermore, while Cp was active, Cp was heavily methylated, indicating that CAEBV has unique EBV latent gene expression, EBNA promoter usage and EBNA promoter methylation status, in part due to unique splicing of Cp-initiated transcripts and an activation mechanism in hypermethylated Cp.