Cancer Gene Found In Epstein-Barr Virus

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill scientists say they've identified a gene in the Epstein-Barr virus that may contribute to cancer development. The Epstein-Barr virus is a form of human herpes virus that is the causative agent of mononucleosis. It is often associated with various types of human cancers, specifically lymphoproliferative disease (leukemia and hodgkins/non-hodgkins lymphoma) in immunosupressed patients. In the North Carolina study, immunodeficient mice infected with an Epstein-Barr virus mutant missing the gene controlling the rupturing of an infected cell to release new viruses, did not develop lymphoproliferative disease. But when mice were challenged with EBV containing lymphoproliferative disease, the lytic gene, development was enhanced. Researchers say the results indicate lytic gene expression contributes to EBV-associated lymphoproliferative disease. Our results suggest the decreased ability of immunosuppressed hosts to control the lytic form of EBV may promote the development of LPD, not only by allowing enhanced horizontal transmission of the virus but also by increasing the number of lytically infected tumor cells, said the researchers. The findings appear in the November issue of the Journal of Virology.

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