Role of cytotoxic T lymphocytes in Epstein-Barr virus-associated diseases

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2000;54:19-48. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.54.1.19.


Adaptation of persistent infection within the cells of the immune system is a unique characteristic of gamma herpes viruses. A classic example of this is Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which may have co-evolved with Homo sapiens over millions of years, thus achieving a balance between viral persistence and immune control. In this review, we present an overview of virus and the host immune system interactions that regulate the life-long host-virus relationship in healthy virus carriers and EBV-associated diseases. Extensive analysis of cytotoxic T lymphocyte-mediated immune responses in healthy virus carriers has revealed unique mechanisms used by EBV to maintain a benign persistent state in vivo. On the other hand, this relationship in EBV-associated diseases favors the escape of the virus from the hostile effects of the immune response. This escape is achieved by either down-regulating the expression of highly immunogenic antigens of the virus or by direct modulation of the host cytotoxic T lymphocyte response by virus-encoded proteins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / epidemiology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / immunology*
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / virology
  • Carrier State
  • Epitopes
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Virus Latency


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epitopes