B Lymphocyte Subpopulations are Equally Susceptible to Epstein-Barr Virus-Infection Irrespective of Immunoglobulin Isotype Expression

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While Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is known to establish latency in the memory B-cell compartment, there is controversy as to whether the memory or the naïve B cell is the initial target for infection. Here we have explored the infectability of the B-cell subsets contained in peripheral blood and tonsils, as distinguished by their surface expression of the immunoglobulin isotypes that help to define naïve and memory pools. First we show that both CD21 and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules--respectively, the major receptor and co-receptor for EBV on B cells--are expressed at similar levels on blood and tonsillar B cells, irrespective of surface immunoglobulin class, indicating that each of the subsets demonstrate an equal potential, at least for infection. Then, following in vitro infection of total tonsillar B cells, we found that the relative frequencies of immunoglobulin (Ig)M-, IgG- and IgA-positive cells containing EBV-encoded Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 5 (EBNA5) protein at 48 hr were similar to those of the starting population. However, IgD expression was uniformly decreased, probably as a consequence of cellular activation. These data indicate that recirculating B cells have both the potential for, and susceptibility to, initial infection by EBV, irrespective of the immunoglobulin isotype expressed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-430
Number of pages4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2003