Interferon-independent and -induced regulation of Epstein-Barr virus EBNA-1 gene transcription in Burkitt lymphoma

Carol Nonkwelo, Ingrid K. Ruf, Jeffery Sample

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64 Scopus citations


Replication of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome within latently infected cells is dependent on the EBV EBNA-1 protein. The objective of this study was to identify transcriptional regulatory proteins that mediate EBNA- 1 expression via the viral promoter Qp, which is active in EBV-associated tumors such as Burkitt lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Results of a yeast one-hybrid screen suggested that a subset of the interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family may regulate EBNA-1 transcription by targeting an essential cis-regulatory element of Qp, QRE-2. Further investigation indicated that the transcriptional activator IRF-1 and the closely related IRF-2, a repressor of interferon-induced gene expression, are both capable of activating Qp. However, the major QRE-2-specific binding activity detected within extracts of Burkitt lymphoma cells was attributed to IRF-2, suggesting that interferon-independent activation of Qp is largely mediated by IRF-2 in these cells. We observed no effect of gamma interferon on Qp activity in transfection assays, whereas we observed a moderate but significant repression of Qp activity in response to alpha interferon, possibly mediated by either the interferon consensus sequence binding protein or IRF-7, a novel alpha interferon-inducible factor identified in this study. Since expression of IRF-1 and IRF-2 is increased in response to interferons, the Qp activity observed in the presence of interferon likely represented an equilibrium between IRF factors that activate and those that repress gene expression in response to interferon. Thus, by usurping both IRF-1 and its transcriptional antagonist IRF-2 to activate Qp, EBV has evolved not only a mechanism to constitutively express EBNA-1 but also one which may sustain EBNA-1 expression in the face of the antiviral effects of interferon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6887-6897
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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