Epstein-Barr virus exploits intrinsic B-lymphocyte transcription programs to achieve immortal cell growth.

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

Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA2) regulation of transcription through the cell transcription factor RBPJ is essential for resting B-lymphocyte (RBL) conversion to immortal lymphoblast cell lines (LCLs). ChIP-seq of EBNA2 and RBPJ sites in LCL DNA found EBNA2 at 5,151 and RBPJ at 10,529 sites. EBNA2 sites were enriched for RBPJ (78%), early B-cell factor (EBF, 39%), RUNX (43%), ETS (39%), NFκB (22%), and PU.1 (22%) motifs. These motif associations were confirmed by LCL RBPJ ChIP-seq finding 72% RBPJ occupancy and Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements LCL ChIP-seq finding EBF, NFκB RELA, and PU.1 at 54%, 31%, and 17% of EBNA2 sites. EBNA2 and RBPJ were predominantly at intergene and intron sites and only 14% at promoter sites. K-means clustering of EBNA2 site transcription factors identified RELA-ETS, EBF-RUNX, EBF, ETS, RBPJ, and repressive RUNX clusters, which ranked from highest to lowest in H3K4me1 signals and nucleosome depletion, indicative of active chromatin. Surprisingly, although quantitatively less, the same genome sites in RBLs exhibited similar high-level H3K4me1 signals and nucleosome depletion. The EBV genome also had an LMP1 promoter EBF site, which proved critical for EBNA2 activation. LCL HiC data mapped intergenic EBNA2 sites to EBNA2 up-regulated genes. FISH and chromatin conformation capture linked EBNA2/RBPJ enhancers 428 kb 5′ of MYC to MYC. These data indicate that EBNA2 evolved to target RBL H3K4me1 modified, nucleosome-depleted, nonpromoter sites to drive B-lymphocyte proliferation in primary human infection. The primed RBL program likely supports antigen-induced proliferation.