Germinal Center Cytokines Driven Epigenetic Control of Epstein-Barr Virus Latency Gene Expression.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) persistently infects 95% of adults worldwide and is associated with multiple human lymphomas that express characteristic EBV latency programs used by the virus to navigate the B-cell compartment. Upon primary infection, the EBV latency III program, comprised of six Epstein-Barr Nuclear Antigens (EBNA) and two Latent Membrane Protein (LMP) antigens, drives infected B-cells into germinal center (GC). By incompletely understood mechanisms, GC microenvironmental cues trigger the EBV genome to switch to the latency II program, comprised of EBNA1, LMP1 and LMP2A and observed in GC-derived Hodgkin lymphoma. To gain insights into pathways and epigenetic mechanisms that control EBV latency reprogramming as EBV-infected B-cells encounter microenvironmental cues, we characterized GC cytokine effects on EBV latency protein expression and on the EBV epigenome. We confirmed and extended prior studies highlighting GC cytokine effects in support of the latency II transition. The T-follicular helper cytokine interleukin 21 (IL-21), which is a major regulator of GC responses, and to a lesser extent IL-4 and IL-10, hyper-induced LMP1 expression, while repressing EBNA expression. However, follicular dendritic cell cytokines including IL-15 and IL-27 downmodulate EBNA but not LMP1 expression. CRISPR editing highlighted that STAT3 and STAT5 were necessary for cytokine mediated EBNA silencing via epigenetic effects at the EBV genomic C promoter. By contrast, STAT3 was instead necessary for LMP1 promoter epigenetic remodeling, including gain of activating histone chromatin marks and loss of repressive polycomb repressive complex silencing marks. Thus, EBV has evolved to coopt STAT signaling to oppositely regulate the epigenetic status of key viral genomic promoters in response to GC cytokine cues.

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