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The human herpesviruses Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) are associated with Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) and Primary effusion lymphomas (PEL), respectively, which are B cell malignancies that originate from germinal center B cells. PEL cells but also a quarter of EBV-positive HL tumor cells do not express the genuine B cell receptor (BCR), a situation incompatible with survival of normal B cells. EBV encodes LMP2A, one of EBV's viral latent membrane proteins, which likely replaces the BCR's survival signaling in HL. Whether KSHV encodes a viral BCR mimic that contributes to oncogenesis is not known because an experimental model of KSHV-mediated B cell transformation is lacking. We addressed this uncertainty with mutant EBVs encoding the KSHV genes K1 or K15 in lieu of LMP2A and infected primary BCR-negative (BCR(-)) human B cells with them. We confirmed that the survival of BCR(-) B cells and their proliferation depended on an active LMP2A signal. Like LMP2A, the expression of K1 and K15 led to the survival of BCR(-) B cells prone to apoptosis, supported their proliferation, and regulated a similar set of cellular target genes. K1 and K15 encoded proteins appear to have noncomplementing, redundant functions in this model, but our findings suggest that both KSHV proteins can replace LMP2A's key activities contributing to the survival, activation and proliferation of BCR(-) PEL cells in vivo. Several herpesviruses encode oncogenes that are receptor-like proteins. Often, they are constitutively active providing important functions to the latently infected cells. LMP2A of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is such a receptor that mimics an activated B cell receptor, BCR. K1 and K15, related receptors of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) expressed in virus-associated tumors, have less obvious functions. We found in infection experiments that both viral receptors of KSHV can replace LMP2A and deliver functions similar to the endogenous BCR. K1, K15, and LMP2A also control the expression of a related set of cellular genes in primary human B cells, the target cells of EBV and KSHV. The observed phenotypes, as well as the known characteristics of these genes, argue for their contributions to cellular survival, B cell activation, and proliferation. Our findings provide one possible explanation for the tumorigenicity of KSHV, which poses a severe problem in immunocompromised patients. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


Lisa Steinbrück, Montse Gustems, Stephanie Medele, Thomas F Schulz, Dominik Lutter, Wolfgang Hammerschmidt. K1 and K15 of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Are Partial Functional Homologues of Latent Membrane Protein 2A of Epstein-Barr Virus. Journal of virology. 2015 Jul;89(14):7248-61

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PMID: 25948739

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