, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 8-24

Epstein-Barr virus interactions with the Bcl-2 protein family and apoptosis in human tumor cells

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Abstract

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a human gammaherpesvirus carried by more than 90% of the world’s population, is associated with malignant tumors such as Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), Hodgkin lymphoma, post-transplant lymphoma, extra-nodal natural killer/T cell lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal and gastric carcinomas in immune-compromised patients. In the process of infection, EBV faces challenges: the host cell environment is harsh, and the survival and apoptosis of host cells are precisely regulated. Only when host cells receive sufficient survival signals may they immortalize. To establish efficiently a lytic or long-term latent infection, EBV must escape the host cell immunologic mechanism and resist host cell apoptosis by interfering with multiple signaling pathways. This review details the apoptotic pathway disrupted by EBV in EBV-infected cells and describes the interactions of EBV gene products with host cellular factors as well as the function of these factors, which decide the fate of the host cell. The relationships between other EBV-encoded genes and proteins of the B-cell leukemia/lymphoma (Bcl) family are unknown. Still, EBV seems to contribute to establishing its own latency and the formation of tumors by modifying events that impact cell survival and proliferation as well as the immune response of the infected host. We discuss potential therapeutic drugs to provide a foundation for further studies of tumor pathogenesis aimed at exploiting novel therapeutic strategies for EBV-associated diseases.

Project supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81071937) and the Qianjiang Talents Project of Technology Office in Zhejiang Province, China (No. 2010R10064)