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Grabusic, Kristina (2004): RBP-J dependent and independent signalling of EBNA-2. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Biology
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Abstract

EBNA-2 is a multifunctional viral oncogene involved in the immortalisation of B-cells by EBV. EBNA-2 regulates transcription of viral and cellular genes in the proliferative phase of the viral life cycle, which in vitro results in the outgrowth of EBV positive B-cells into lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). EBNA-2 transcriptional signalling is mediated by cellular DNA-binding proteins, such as RBP-J and PU.1, since EBNA-2 does not contain its own DNA-binding domain. In order to better characterise EBNA-2 signalling we conducted a mutational analysis of the viral LMP-1 promoter that is strongly induced by EBNA-2 in the EBV-immortalised B-cells. Our mutational analysis of the LMP-1 promoter confirmed that the PU.1 binding site is important for transactivation of the LMP-1 promoter by EBNA-2, whereas RBP-J binding to the LMP-1 promoter leads to repression and EBNA-2 binding to RBP-J is not required for transactivation. These results imply that EBNA-2 transactivates the LMP-1 promoter preferentially by an RBP-J independent mechanism. We further characterised EBNA-2 signalling by dissection of promoter targeting domains in the EBNA-2 protein. Two EBNA-2 mutants, the CR4del and WW mutant, preferentially activated RBP-J dependent and independent signalling indicating that EBNA-2 uses at least two separate signalling pathways. We introduced the characterised EBNA-2 mutants into the EBV genome and produced recombinant viruses carrying specific mutations in the EBNA-2 genes. Primary B-cells were infected with increasing titres of recombinant EBVs lacking the EBNA-2 ORF or carrying the WW or CR4del mutant. Viruses lacking the EBNA-2 ORF or carrying the WW mutant were not able to immortalise primary B-cells even at high viral titres. The CR4 region of EBNA-2 strongly influenced B-cell immortalisation efficiency and growth rate of the immortalised B-cells. These results indicate that EBNA-2 and the RBP-J signalling of EBNA-2 are absolutely essential for B-cell immortalisation by EBV. In contrast, the CR4 EBNA-2 region mediating RBP-J independent signalling is critical, but not absolutely essential for the process of EBV immortalisation.