Identification of rare Epstein-Barr virus infected memory B cells and plasma cells in non-monomorphic post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders and the signature of viral signaling

Shaknovich, R.; Basso, Katia; Bhagat, Govind; Mansukhani, Mahesh M.; Hatzivassiliou, G.; Vundavalli, Murty V.; Niedobitek, G.; Alobeid, Bachir; Cattoretti, Giorgio

Background and Objectives. In early and polymorphic post-transplant lymphoprolifera- tive disorders (PTLD) Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), through its latency proteins, drives the proliferation of B lymphocytes, a process which in immunocompetent individuals leads to the establishment of latently infected memory B cells.

Design and Methods. We analyzed 11 cases, which included early and polymorphic PTLD, and 12 controls for latency of EBV infection and their antigenic profile.

Results. We identified a minority of terminally differentiated EBER+ IRTA1+ memory B cells and EBER+ CD138+ PRDM1+ plasma cells in these samples. These elements were identified both in PTLD and in tumor-free tonsils from post-transplant patients but not in EBV– control tonsils. The expression of EBV latency proteins is heterogeneous, and is associated with activation of the NF-κB pathway. EBV signaling (through EBNA2, LMP1 and LMP2A) and NF-κB activation correlated with upregulation of target proteins: cMYC, JunB, CCL22, TRAF1 and IRF4. EBV-infected lymphocytes in early and polymor- phic PTLDs represent a mixture of latencies II, III and, in at least 1/3 of infected cells, of latency 0.
Interpretation and conclusions. EBV infection correlates with NF-κB activation, with EBV-dependent cell signaling, and lastly, with the presence of EBV-infected plasma cells and memory cells.

Key words: post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, Epstein-Barr virus, viral latency, NF-κB signaling, plasma cell, memory B cell.


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Pathology and Cell Biology
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November 26, 2019