A positive autoregulatory loop of LMP1 expression and STAT activation in epithelial cells latently infected with Epstein-Barr virus

Honglin Chen, Lindsey Hutt-Fletcher, Liang Cao, S. Diane Hayward

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STAT3 and STAT5 are constitutively activated and nuclear in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells. In normal signaling, STATs are only transiently activated. To investigate whether Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and in particular the protein LMP1, contributes to sustained STAT phosphorylation and activation in epithelial cells, we examined STAT activity in two sets of paired cell lines, HeLa, an EBV-converted HeLa cell line, HeLa-Bx1, the NPC-derived cell line CNE2-LNSX, and an LMP1-expressing derivative, CNE2-LMP1. EBV infection was associated with a significant increase in the tyrosine-phosphorylated forms of STAT3 and STAT5 in HeLa-Bx1 cells. This effect correlated with LMP1 expression, since phosphorylated STAT3 and STAT5 levels were also increased in CNE2-LMP1 cells relative to the control CNE2-LNSX cells. No change was observed in STAT1 or STAT6 phosphorylation in these cell lines, nor was there a significant change in the levels of total STAT3, STAT5, STAT1, or STAT6 protein. Tyrosine phosphorylation allows the normally cytoplasmic STAT proteins to enter the nucleus and bind to their recognition sequences in responsive promoters. The ability of LMP1 to activate STAT3 was further established by immunofluorescence assays in which coexpression of LMP1 in transfected cells was sufficient to mediate nuclear relocalization of Flag-STAT3 and by an electrophoretic mobility shift assay which showed that LMP1 expression in CNE2-LNSX cells was associated with increased endogenous STAT3 DNA binding activity. In addition, the activity of a downstream target of STAT3, c-Myc, was upregulated in HeLa-Bx1 and CNE2-LMP1 cells. A linkage was established between interleukin-6 (IL-6)- and LMP1-mediated STAT3 activation. Treatment with IL-6 increased phosphorylated STAT3 levels in CNE2-LNSX cells, and conversely, treatment of CNE2-LMP1 cells with IL-6 neutralizing antibody ablated STAT3 activation and c-Myc upregulation. The previous observation that STAT3 activated the LMP1 terminal repeat promoter in reporter assays was extended to show upregulated expression of endogenous LMP1 mRNA and protein in HeLa-Bx1 cells transfected with a constitutively activated STAT3. A model is proposed in which EBV infection of an epithelial cell containing activated STATs would permit LMP1 expression. This in turn would establish a positive feedback loop of IL-6-induced STAT activation, LMP1 and Qp-EBNA1 expression, and viral genome persistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4139-4148
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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