Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a well-established B-cell-tropic virus associated with various lymphoproliferative diseases of both B-cell and non-B-cell origin. EBV is associated with a number of T-cell lymphomas; however,
studies utilizing prototypical EBV type 1 (EBV-1) laboratory strains have generally failed to readily infect mature T cells in culture. The difficulties in performing
T-cell experiments have left questions regarding the role of EBV in the pathogenesis of EBV-positive T-cell lymphoproliferative diseases largely unresolved. We report here that the EBV type 2 (EBV-2) strain displays a unique cell tropism for T cells. In remarkable contrast to EBV-1, EBV-2 readily infects primary T cells
, demonstrating a propensity for CD8
T cells. EBV-2 infection of purified T cells results in expression of latency genes and ultimately leads to T-cell activation, substantial proliferation, and profound alteration of cytokine expression. The pattern of cytokine production is strikingly skewed toward chemokines with roles in lymphocyte migration, demonstrating that EBV-2 has the ability to modulate normal T-cell processes. Collectively, these novel findings identify a previously unknown cell population potentially utilized by EBV-2 to establish latency and lay the foundation for further studies to elucidate the role of EBV in the pathogenesis of T-cell lymphoproliferative diseases.
The ability of EBV to infect T cells is made apparent by its association with a variety of T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. However, studies to elucidate the pathogenic role of EBV in these diseases have been limited by the inability to conduct
T-cell infection experiments. Here, we report that EBV-2 isolates, compromised in the capacity to immortalize B cells, infect CD3
and propose a working model of EBV-2 persistence where alteration of T-cell functions resulting from EBV-2 infection enhances the establishment of latency in B cells. If indeed EBV-2 utilizes T cells to establish a persistent infection, this could provide one mechanism for the association of EBV with T-cell lymphomas. The novel finding that EBV-2 infects T cells in culture will provide a model to understand the role EBV plays in the development of T-cell lymphomas.