The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) induces infectious mononucleosis (IM) and can be associated with chronic active EBV infection (CAEBV). Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) play an important role in excluding EBV-infected cells. Two cytotoxic mechanisms of CTL have been demonstrated: one perforin/granzyme- based and the other Fas (CD95)/Fas ligand (FasL)-based. To clarify these two pathways in CAEBV, we analyzed six patients with CAEBV and four patients with IM using immunohistochemical staining of the lymph nodes. In both CAEBV and IM, CD8+ T-cells increased in number, but CD56+ natural killer cells were rare. In four of six cases with CAEBV, approximately half the lymphocytes were positive for T cell-restricted intracellular antigens (TIA-1), which were recognized by the cytolytic granules of CTL. In IM, the number of TIA-1 positive cells was smaller than that in CAEBV. Fas-positive lymphocytes were frequently encountered in both CAEBV and IM. However, FasL-positive lymphocytes increased in three of six patients with CAEBV, but not in patients with IM. Except for one case with CAEBV, the number of perforin- and/or granzyme-positive cells was small in number in both CAEBV and IM cases. In double-staining FasL and EBV in situ hybridization, FasL-positive EBV-infected lymphocytes were detected in CAEBV but not in IM. In CAEBV, the Fas/FasL pathway and not perforin pathways appears to play an important role in the pathogenesis. The data suggest that EBV-infected lymphocytes may evade immune attack through the expression of FasL.
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