by Emilie Zuercher, Christophe Butticaz, Josiane Wyniger, Raquel Martinez, Manuel Battegay, Emmanuelle Boffi El Amari, Thanh Dang, Jean-François Egger, Jan Fehr, Esther Mueller-Garamvögyi, Andrea Parini, Stephan C. Schaefer, Franziska Schoeni-Affolter, Christine Thurnheer, Marianne Tinguely, Amalio Telenti, Sylvia Rothenberger, and the Swiss HIV cohort study
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with several types of cancers including Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), a multifunctional oncoprotein, is a powerful activator of the transcription factor NF-?B, a property that is essential for EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell survival. Previous studies reported LMP1 sequence variations and induction of higher NF-?B activation levels compared to the prototype B95-8 LMP1 by some variants. Here we used biopsies of EBV-associated cancers and blood of individuals included in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS) to analyze LMP1 genetic diversity and impact of sequence variations on LMP1-mediated NF-?B activation potential. We found that a number of variants mediate higher NF-?B activation levels when compared to B95-8 LMP1 and mapped three single polymorphisms responsible for this phenotype: F106Y, I124V and F144I. F106Y was present in all LMP1 isolated in this study and its effect was variant dependent, suggesting that it was modulated by other polymorphisms. The two polymorphisms I124V and F144I were present in distinct phylogenetic groups and were linked with other specific polymorphisms nearby, I152L and D150A/L151I, respectively. The two sets of polymorphisms, I124V/I152L and F144I/D150A/L151I, which were markers of increased NF-?B activation in vitro, were not associated with EBV-associated HL in the SHCS. Taken together these results highlighted the importance of single polymorphisms for the modulation of LMP1 signaling activity and demonstrated that several groups of LMP1 variants, through distinct mutational paths, mediated enhanced NF-?B activation levels compared to B95-8 LMP1.