Stable transfection of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen 2 in lymphoma cells containing the EBV P3HR1 genome induces expression of B-cell activation molecules CD21 and CD23.


A set of B-cell activation molecules, including the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) receptor CR2 (CD21) and the B-cell activation antigen CD23 (Blast2/Fc epsilon RII), is turned on by infecting EBV-negative B-lymphoma cell lines with immortalizing strains of the viruslike B95-8 (BL/B95 cells). This up regulation may represent one of the mechanisms involved in EBV-mediated B-cell immortalization. The P3HR1 nonimmortalizing strain of the virus, which is deleted for the entire Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA2) protein open reading frame, is incapable of inducing the expression of CR2 and CD23, suggesting a crucial role for EBNA2 in the activation of these molecules. In addition, lymphoma cells containing the P3HR1 genome (BL/P3HR1 cells) do not express the viral latent membrane protein (LMP), which is regularly expressed in cells infected with immortalizing viral strains. Using electroporation, we have transfected the EBNA2 gene cloned in an episomal vector into BL/P3HR1 cells and have obtained cell clones that stably express the EBNA2 protein. In these clones, EBNA2 expression was associated with an increased amount of CR2 and CD23 steady-state RNAs. Of the three species of CD23 mRNAs described, the Fc epsilon RIIa species was preferentially expressed in these EBNA2-expressing clones. An increased cell surface expression of CR2 but not of CD23 was observed, and the soluble form of CD23 molecule (SCD23) was released. We were, however, not able to detect any expression of LMP in these cell clones. These data demonstrate that EBNA2 gene is able to complement P3HR1 virus latent functions to induce the activation of CR2 and CD23 expression, and they emphasize the role of EBNA2 protein in the modulation of cellular gene implicated in B-cell proliferation and hence in EBV-mediated B-cell immortalization. Nevertheless, EBNA2 expression in BL/P3HR1 cells is not able to restore the level of CR2 and CD23 expression observed in BL/B95 cells, suggesting that other cellular or viral proteins may also have an important role in the activation of these molecules: the viral LMP seems to be a good candidate.

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