Infection of normal human epithelial cells by Epstein-Barr virus

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  11 Mar 1983:
Vol. 219, Issue 4589, pp. 1225-1228
DOI: 10.1126/science.6298935


Primary cultures of epithelial cells were grown from the tonsils and adenoids of patients with diseases not related to Epstein-Barr virus. The cells could not be infected by Epstein-Barr virus. Fluorescein-labeled Epstein-Barr virus and a cytofluorograph were then used to show that the epithelial cells do not have detectable receptors for the virus. However, implantation with Epstein-Barr virus receptors gave the cells the ability to bind the labeled virus. One to 5 percent of receptor-implanted cells exposed to the transforming B95-8 substrain of the virus expressed Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen. The early and viral capsid Epstein-Barr virus-determined antigens were not detected in the virus-infected cultures. The results show that normal human epithelial cells from the nasopharynx become susceptible to infection by Epstein-Barr virus when the membrane barrier resulting from the lack of viral receptors is overcome by receptor implantation.