New insight into Epstein-Barr virus infection using models of stratified epithelium

Ian R. Hayman, Rachel M. Temple, Cole K. Burgess, Mary Ferguson, Jason Liao, Craig Meyers, Clare E. Sample

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human pathogen that is transmitted in saliva. EBV transits through the oral epithelium to infect B cells, where it establishes a life-long latent infection. Reinfection of the epithelium is believed to be mediated by virus shed from B cells, but whether a latent reservoir can exist in the epithelia is unknown. We previously developed an in vitro organotypic model of stratified epithelium where EBV can readily replicate within the suprabasal layers of the epithelium following apical infection mediated by virus-producing B cells. Given that infected epithelial cells and cell-free virus are observed in saliva, we examined the ability of both of these to mediate infection in organotypic cultures. Epithelial-derived cell-free virus was able to infect organotypic cultures from the apical surface, but showed enhanced infection of B cells. Conversely, B cell-derived virus exhibited enhanced infection of epithelial cells. While EBV has been detected in basal cells in oral hairy leukoplakia, it is unknown whether EBV can be seen in undifferentiated primary keratinocytes in the basal layer. Undifferentiated epithelial cells expressed proposed EBV receptors in monolayer and were susceptible to viral binding and entry. Integrins, and occasionally ephrin A2, were expressed in the basal layer of gingiva and tonsil derived organotypic cultures, but the known B-cell receptors HLAII and CD21 were not detected. Following infection with cell-free virus or virus-producing B cells at either the apical or basolateral surface of preformed organotypic cultures, abundant infection was detected in differentiated suprabasal cells while more limited but readily detectable infection was observed in the undifferentiated basal cells. Together, our data has provided new insight into EBV infection in stratified epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011040
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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