The plasmid replicon of EBV consists of multiple cis-acting elements that facilitate DNA synthesis by the cell and a viral maintenance element.EMBO J. 1998 Nov 02; 17(21):6394-403.EJ
Plasmids containing oriP, the plasmid origin of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), are replicated stably in human cells that express a single viral trans-acting factor, EBNA-1. Unlike plasmids of other viruses, but akin to human chromosomes, oriP plasmids are synthesized once per cell cycle, and are partitioned faithfully to daughter cells during mitosis. Although EBNA-1 binds multiple sites within oriP, its role in DNA synthesis and partitioning has been obscure. EBNA-1 lacks enzymatic activities that are present in the origin-binding proteins of other mammalian viruses, and does not interact with human cellular proteins that provide equivalent enzymatic functions. We demonstrate that plasmids with oriP or its constituent elements are synthesized efficiently in human cells in the absence of EBNA-1. Further, we show that human cells rapidly eliminate or destroy newly synthesized plasmids, and that both EBNA-1 and the family of repeats of oriP are required for oriP plasmids to escape this catastrophic loss. These findings indicate that EBV's plasmid replicon consists of genetic elements with distinct functions, multiple cis-acting elements that facilitate DNA synthesis and viral cis/trans elements that permit retention of replicated DNA in daughter cells. They also explain historical failures to identify mammalian origins of DNA synthesis as autonomously replicating sequences.