Induction of interferon-stimulated genes on the IL-4 response axis by Epstein-Barr virus infected human b cells; relevance to cellular transformation

Nikki Smith, Rosemary Tierney, Wenbin Wei, Martina Vockerodt, Paul G Murray, Ciaran B Woodman, Martin Rowe

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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an oncogenic virus that is associated with the pathogenesis of several human lymphoid malignancies, including Hodgkin's lymphoma. Infection of normal resting B cells with EBV results in activation to lymphoblasts that are phenotypically similar to those generated by physiological stimulation with CD40L plus IL-4. One important difference is that infection leads to the establishment of permanently growing lymphoblastoid cell lines, whereas CD40L/IL-4 blasts have finite proliferation lifespans. To identify early events which might later determine why EBV infected blasts go on to establish transformed cell lines, we performed global transcriptome analyses on resting B cells and on EBV and CD40L/IL-4 blasts after 7 days culture. As anticipated there was considerable overlap in the transcriptomes of the two types of lymphoblasts when compared to the original resting B cells, reflecting common changes associated with lymphocyte activation and proliferation. Of interest to us was a subset of 255 genes that were differentially expressed between EBV and CD40L/IL-4 blasts. Genes which were more highly expressed in EBV blasts were substantially and significantly enriched for a set of interferon-stimulated genes which on further in silico analyses were found to be repressed by IL-4 in other cell contexts and to be up-regulated in micro-dissected malignant cells from Hodgkin's lymphoma biopsies when compared to their normal germinal center cell counterparts. We hypothesized that EBV and IL-4 were targeting and discordantly regulating a common set of genes. This was supported experimentally in our B cell model where IL-4 stimulation partially reversed transcriptional changes which follow EBV infection and it impaired the efficiency of EBV-induced B cell transformation. Taken together, these data suggest that the discordant regulation of interferon and IL-4 pathway genes by EBV that occurs early following infection of B cells has relevance to the development or maintenance of an EBV-associated malignancy.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64868
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2013


  • Apoptosis
  • B cells
  • Cytokines
  • DNA transcription
  • Gene expression
  • Gene regulation
  • T cells


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