Soluble products of either Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected B cells or activated monocytes promote the proliferation of EBV-infected B cells and permit their growth at low cell densities. This suggests that growth factors are important for B-cell immortalization by EBV. In this study, a monocyte-derived factor that promotes the growth of EBV-infected b cells was purified and identified as interferon-beta 2 (IFN-beta 2), which is also known as 26-kilodalton protein, B-cell differentiation factor (BSF-2), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). The purified protein has a specific activity of approximately 4 X 10(7) units per milligram of protein in assays of B-cell growth. Thus, IFN-beta 2/BSF-2 is a B-cell growth factor that promotes the proliferation of human B cells infected with EBV.

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