Nav: Home

Genetic differences between strains of Epstein-Barr virus can alter its activity

July 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Sussex have identified how differences in the genetic sequence of the two main strains of the cancer-associated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can alter the way the virus behaves when it infects white blood cells.

When EBV enters white blood cells it drives them to grow rapidly and continuously, making them 'immortal'. In some cases this can lead to the development of lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

There are two main strains of the virus worldwide and although they can both cause cancer, in the laboratory, one strain (type 1) is able to drive white blood cells to become immortal better than the other (type 2).

While scientists already knew that the different properties of the two strains were caused by a protein called EBNA2, which is produced by EBV, until now they didn't know how it could cause the viruses to act so differently.

In a new research paper published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, Professor Michelle West together with Dr Erika Mancini at the University of Sussex and Professor Paul Farrell at Imperial College London, have identified a molecular reason for the difference in activity between the two strains.

Prof West said: "EBNA2 is kept in check by contact with a protein normally found in white blood cells; BS69. This contact damps down EBNA2 function but does not block it entirely.

"While type 1 has two contact points for BS69 the sequence changes in type 2 result in the creation of a third contact point.

"This additional contact damps down type 2 EBNA2 function to a greater extent, helping to explain why this strain of EBV is less efficient at driving white blood cell growth."

The research, funded by the charity Bloodwise and the Medical Research Council helps shed light on how proteins already present in white blood cells can restrict some strains of the virus more than others.

Prof. West said: "It is assumed that because type 2 strains of EBV are less efficient in the laboratory, these strains of EBV might be less cancer promoting, but oddly there is no evidence to support this.

"We do know that type 2 strains of EBV are more common in certain parts of Asia and Africa, and we could speculate that immortalising white blood cells less efficiently may somehow be an advantage to the virus in infecting people in these parts of the world.

"New research also shows that type 2 strains of EBV are able to infect a different kind of white blood cell, the T cell, so it may be that type 2 strains use an alternative route to enter the body."

Professor West's team, in collaboration with Professor Farrell and Dr White at Imperial College, will now investigate the impact of strain variation on the biology of EBV further, thanks to recent funding for a 3-year project by the Medical Research Council.
-end-


University of Sussex

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...