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Expression of Epstein-Barr virus BamHI-A rightward transcripts in latently infected B cells from peripheral blood.
Molecular Virology Laboratory, the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Science, and the Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
In addition to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) EBNA and LMP latency genes, there is a family of alternatively spliced BamHI-A rightward transcripts (BARTs). These latency transcripts are highly expressed in the EBV-associated malignancies nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Burkitt's lymphoma, and are expressed at lower levels in latently EBV-infected B-cell lines. The contribution of the BARTs to EBV biology or pathogenesis is unknown. Resting B cells have recently been recognized as a reservoir for EBV persistence in the peripheral blood. In these cells, EBV gene expression is tightly restricted and the only viral gene known to be consistently expressed is LMP2A. We used cell sorting and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to examine whether BARTs are expressed in the restricted form of in vivo latency. Our results demonstrated that RNAs with splicing diagnostic for transcripts containing the BART RPMS1 and BARFO open-reading frames (ORFs) were expressed in CD19(+) but not in CD23(+) B cells isolated from peripheral blood of healthy individuals. The product of the proximal RPMS1 ORF has not previously been characterized. The RPMS1 ORF was shown to encode a 15-kD protein that localized to the nucleus of transfected cells. Expression of the BARTs in peripheral blood B cells suggests that the proteins encoded by these transcripts are likely to be important for maintenance of in vivo latency.
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