Mouse model for acute Epstein-Barr virus infection


  • T. Wirtz
  • T. Weber
  • S. Kracker
  • T. Sommermann
  • K. Rajewsky
  • T. Yasuda


  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113 (48): 13821-13826


  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infects human B cells and drives them into continuous proliferation. Two key viral factors in this process are the latent membrane proteins LMP1 and LMP2A, which mimic constitutively activated CD40 receptor and B-cell receptor signaling, respectively. EBV-infected B cells elicit a powerful T-cell response that clears the infected B cells and leads to life-long immunity. Insufficient immune surveillance of EBV-infected B cells causes life-threatening lymphoproliferative disorders, including mostly germinal center (GC)-derived B-cell lymphomas. We have modeled acute EBV infection of naive and GC B cells in mice through timed expression of LMP1 and LMP2A. Although lethal when induced in all B cells, induction of LMP1 and LMP2A in just a small fraction of naive B cells initiated a phase of rapid B-cell expansion followed by a proliferative T-cell response, clearing the LMP-expressing B cells. Interfering with T-cell activity prevented clearance of LMP-expressing B cells. This was also true for perforin deficiency, which in the human causes a life-threatening EBV-related immunoproliferative syndrome. LMP expression in GC B cells impeded the GC reaction but, upon loss of T-cell surveillance, led to fatal B-cell expansion. Thus, timed expression of LMP1 together with LMP2A in subsets of mouse B cells allows one to study major clinically relevant features of human EBV infection in vivo, opening the way to new therapeutic approaches.