Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a ubiquitous B-lymphotropic herpesvirus, ectopically infects T or NK cells to cause severe diseases of unknown pathogenesis, including chronic active EBV infection (CAEBV) and EBV-associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (EBV-HLH). We developed xenograft models of CAEBV and EBV-HLH by transplanting patients' PBMC to immunodeficient mice of the NOD/Shi-scid/IL-2Rγ null strain. In these models, EBV-infected T, NK, or B cells proliferated systemically and reproduced histological characteristics of the two diseases. Analysis of the TCR repertoire expression revealed that identical predominant EBV-infected T-cell clones proliferated in patients and corresponding mice transplanted with their PBMC. Expression of the EBV nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1), the latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), and LMP2, but not EBNA2, in the engrafted cells is consistent with the latency II program of EBV gene expression known in CAEBV. High levels of human cytokines, including IL-8, IFN-γ, and RANTES, were detected in the peripheral blood of the model mice, mirroring hypercytokinemia characteristic to both CAEBV and EBV-HLH. Transplantation of individual immunophenotypic subsets isolated from patients' PBMC as well as that of various combinations of these subsets revealed a critical role of CD4 + T cells in the engraftment of EBV-infected T and NK cells. In accordance with this finding, in vivo depletion of CD4 + T cells by the administration of the OKT4 antibody following transplantation of PBMC prevented the engraftment of EBV-infected T and NK cells. This is the first report of animal models of CAEBV and EBV-HLH that are expected to be useful tools in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of the diseases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology