The Epstein-Barr virus EBNA-2 gene in oral hairy leukoplakia: strain variation, genetic recombination, and transcriptional expression
Journal of Virology
Oral hairy leukoplakia (HLP) lesions frequently contain defective Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genomes with deletions in the EBNA-2 gene that abundantly replicate and persist within the lesion. To characterize these viral strains and recombinant variants, the EBNA-2 gene in EBV DNA from several different HLP biopsy specimens was analyzed. Amplification of EBNA-2 coding sequences by PCR demonstrated the presence in HLP of intact EBNA-2 genes as well as a varnety of internally deleted variants of
... ted variants of both EBNA-2A and EBNA-2B. Some of the deletion variants evolved within the HLP lesion from intact EBNA-2 genes, while other variants appeared to be transmissible strains that directly infected the lesion. Intrastrain recombination within the HLP lesion also generated variation within the EBNA-2 polyproline region. Cloning and sequencing of HLP cDNA demonstrated transcription from the internally deleted EBNA-2 open reading frame, indicating that these variant genes are expressed in HLP. Comparative analysis of the HLP EBNA-2 sequences confirmed previous findings of EBV coinfection with multiple types and strains. Sequence variation of these wild-type genes demonstrated that EBNA-2A sequences distinguish at least two separate strains and a variety of substrains of EBV type 1. Two of the HLP EBNA-2A sequences contained amino acid changes in a cytotoxic T-cell epitope within an otherwise highly conserved region of the gene. These data indicate that EBV coinfection, strain variation, and recombination within the EBNA-2 gene are common features of HLP and suggest that the expression of internally deleted EBNA-2 variants could contribute to EBV pathogenesis in permissive infection.