Epstein-Barr virus replication in tongue epithelial cells

Kathrin Herrmann, Phroso Frangou, Jaap Middeldorp, Gerald Niedobitek

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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) persistently infects B-cells in humans and can be shed into the saliva. The cellular source of infectious virus is uncertain. Hairy leukoplakia, an AIDS-associated lesion of the tongue, supports EBV replication in epithelial cells. However, the general significance of this observation has remained doubtful. Using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, we demonstrate evidence of EBV replication in tongue epithelial cells in 4 of 168 samples from 84 autopsy cases. Thus, in patients who do not have AIDS, squamous epithelial cells of the tongue rarely support EBV replication. However, all individuals with evidence of EBV replication were either on immunosuppressive therapy or were terminally ill cancer patients, suggesting that an impairment of the immune system may have allowed EBV replication to occur at this site. Thus, our findings are consistent with the idea that EBV replication in oropharyngeal epithelial cells is an infrequent event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2995-8
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of general virology
Issue numberPt 12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Epithelium
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Journal Article
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Tongue
  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Proteins
  • Virus Replication

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