Although Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) usually establishes an asymptomatic lifelong infection, it is also implicated in the development of germinal center (GC) B-cell-derived malignancies, including Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL). Following primary infection, EBV remains latent in the memory B-cell population, where host-driven methylation of viral DNA contributes to the repression of viral gene expression. However, it is still unclear how EBV harnesses the cell's methylation machinery in B cells, how this contributes to viral persistence, and what impact this has on the methylation of cellular genes. We show that EBV infection of GC B cells is followed by upregulation of the DNA methyltransferase DNMT3A and downregulation of DNMT3B and DNMT1. We show that the EBV latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) oncogene downregulates DNMT1 and that DNMT3A binds to the viral promoter Wp. Genome-wide promoter arrays performed with these cells showed that EBV-associated methylation changes in cellular genes were not randomly distributed across the genome but clustered at chromosomal locations, consistent with an instructive pattern of methylation, and were in part determined by promoter CpG content. Both DNMT3B and DNMT1 were downregulated and DNMT3A was upregulated in HL cell lines, recapitulating the pattern of expression observed following EBV infection of GC B cells. We also found, by using gene expression profiling, that genes differentially expressed following EBV infection of GC B cells were significantly enriched for those reported to be differentially expressed in HL. These observations suggest that EBV-infected GC B cells are a useful model for studying virus-associated changes contributing to the pathogenesis of HL.
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