Sequence variation in EBNA–1 may dictate restriction of tissue distribution of epstein-barr virus in normal and tumor cells

Document Type



Centre for Regenerative Medicine


In seropositive individuals Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) establishes a virus reservoir in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs). Transmission from one individual to another occurs via saliva due to a lytic (virion productive) phase of infection in the oropharynx. EBNA-1 is responsible for maintaining viral episomes in the host cell and could, therefore, also affect the persistence of the virus in different cell lineages. Based on sequence analysis of EBNA-1 we now demonstrate that (i) in addition to the prototype EBNA-1 (identical to the B95.8 virus EBNA-1), EBV in normal individuals encompasses multiple EBNA-1 subtypes, both in PBLs and in oral secretions; (ii) although EBV with prototype EBNA-1 is the predominant virus in normal individuals, it is very rarely associated with either nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) or Burkitt's lymphoma (BL); (iii) EBV with an EBNA-1 subtype (V-val) frequently associated with NPC is also selectively detected in oral secretions and not in PBLs; (iv) EBV with the EBNA-1 subtype V-pro is restricted to PBLs, while a mutated version of this subtype is present in BL, but not in NPC. These findings suggest that the variations in EBNA-1 may be relevant to the ability of EBV to persist in different cell types, and hence relevant to its oncogenic potential.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of General Virology