Epstein Barr Virus Volume 1

Volume 390 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 151-209


EBV Persistence—Introducing the Virus

  • David A. Thorley-LawsonAffiliated withSchool of Medicine, Tufts University Email author 

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Persistent infection by EBV is explained by the germinal center model (GCM) which provides a satisfying and currently the only explanation for EBVs disparate biology. Since the GCM touches on every aspect of the virus, this chapter will serve as an introduction to the subsequent chapters. EBV is B lymphotropic, and its biology closely follows that of normal mature B lymphocytes. The virus persists quiescently in resting memory B cells for the lifetime of the host in a non-pathogenic state that is also invisible to the immune response. To access this compartment, the virus infects naïve B cells in the lymphoepithelium of the tonsils and activates these cells using the growth transcription program. These cells migrate to the GC where they switch to a more limited transcription program, the default program, which helps rescue them into the memory compartment where the virus persists. For egress, the infected memory cells return to the lymphoepithelium where they occasionally differentiate into plasma cells activating viral replication. The released virus can either infect more naïve B cells or be amplified in the epithelium for shedding. This cycle of infection and the quiescent state in memory B cells allow for lifetime persistence at a very low level that is remarkably stable over time. Mathematically, this is a stable fixed point where the mechanisms regulating persistence drive the state back to equilibrium when perturbed. This is the GCM of EBV persistence. Other possible sites and mechanisms of persistence will also be discussed.