Identification and cloning of a new western epstein-barr virus strain that efficiently replicates in primary b cells

Susanne Delecluse, Remy Poirey, Martin Zeier, Paul Schnitzler, Uta Behrends, Ming Han Tsai*, Henri Jacques Delecluse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes human cancers, and epidemiological studies have shown that lytic replication is a risk factor for some of these tumors. This fits with the observation that EBV M81, which was isolated from a Chinese patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, induces potent virus production and increases the risk of genetic instability in infected B cells. To find out whether this property extends to viruses found in other parts of the world, we investigated 22 viruses isolated from Western patients. While one-Third of the viruses hardly replicated, the remaining viruses showed variable levels of replication, with three isolates replicating at levels close to that of M81 in B cells. We cloned one strongly replicating virus into a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC); the resulting recombinant virus (MSHJ) retained the properties of its nonrecombinant counterpart and showed similarities to M81, undergoing lytic replication in vitro and in vivo after 3 weeks of latency. In contrast, B cells infected with the nonreplicating Western B95-8 virus showed early but abortive replication accompanied by cytoplasmic BZLF1 expression. Sequencing confirmed that rMSHJ is a Western virus, being genetically much closer to B95-8 than to M81. Spontaneous replication in rM81-and rMSHJ-infected B cells was dependent on phosphorylated Btk and was inhibited by exposure to ibrutinib, opening the way to clinical intervention in patients with abnormal EBV replication. As rMSHJ contains the complete EBV genome and induces lytic replication in infected B cells, it is ideal to perform genetic analyses of all viral functions in Western strains and their associated diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01918-19
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 May 2020


  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Lytic replication
  • Recombinant virus


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