Author(s): Wille CK, Nawandar DM, Henning AN, Ma S, Oetting KM,
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Abstract Latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and cellular hypermethylation are hallmarks of undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). However, EBV infection of normal oral epithelial cells is confined to differentiated cells and is lytic. Here we demonstrate that the EBV genome can become 5-hydroxymethylated and that this DNA modification affects EBV lytic reactivation. We show that global 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC)-modified DNA accumulates during normal epithelial-cell differentiation, whereas EBV+ NPCs have little if any 5hmC-modified DNA. Furthermore, we find that increasing cellular ten-eleven translocation (TET) activity [which converts methylated cytosine (5mC) to 5hmC] decreases methylation, and increases 5hmC modification, of lytic EBV promoters in EBV-infected cell lines containing highly methylated viral genomes. Conversely, inhibition of endogenous TET activity increases lytic EBV promoter methylation in an EBV-infected telomerase-immortalized normal oral keratinocyte (NOKs) cell line where lytic viral promoters are largely unmethylated. We demonstrate that these cytosine modifications differentially affect the ability of the two EBV immediate-early proteins, BZLF1 (Z) and BRLF1 (R), to induce the lytic form of viral infection. Although methylation of lytic EBV promoters increases Z-mediated and inhibits R-mediated lytic reactivation, 5hmC modification of lytic EBV promoters has the opposite effect. We also identify a specific CpG-containing Z-binding site on the BRLF1 promoter that must be methylated for Z-mediated viral reactivation and show that TET-mediated 5hmC modification of this site in NOKs prevents Z-mediated viral reactivation. Decreased 5-hydroxymethylation of cellular and viral genes may contribute to NPC formation.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Medicinal Chemistry