Accumulation of p53 in infectious mononucleosis tissues

Hum Pathol. 2000 Nov;31(11):1397-403. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2000.19447.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects lymphocytes, where it persists indefinitely for the life of the host; whether the virus interacts with p53 to maintain itself in these cells is unknown. Lymphoid biopsy samples from 10 patients with infectious mononucleosis (IM) were examined for expression of p53 by immunohistochemistry. Accumulation of p53 was detected in all 10 cases, primarily in large lymphocytes of the expanded paracortex. The presence of EBV was confirmed in all 10 cases by EBER1 (EBV-encoded RNA) in situ hybridization, whereas 11 non-IM control samples lacked significant EBER1 and did not express p53 in paracortical lymphocytes. Interestingly, EBV infection alone does not cause accumulation of intracellular p53, because many more cells expressed EBER1 than p53 in the IM tissues. To determine whether p53 was confined to the subset of infected cells in which viral replication was occurring, BZLF1 immunostains were performed. Viral BZLF1 was detected in 8 of 10 IM tissues; however, the paucity and small size of the BZLF1-expressing lymphocytes suggests that they are not the same cells overexpressing p53. To further examine the relationship between p53 and EBV gene expression, the tissues were studied for latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) expression by immunohistochemistry. Viral LMP1 was observed in the large paracortical lymphocytes of all 10 cases of IM, indicating co-localization of p53 and LMP1 in these cells. Our findings confirm that p53 overexpression is not specific for nodal malignancy and that p53 accumulation is characteristic of IM. Because p53 was not coexpressed in the same cells as BZLF1, it appears that BZLF1 is not directly responsible for p53 accumulation. Nevertheless, co-localization of p53 and LMP1 in activated-appearing lymphocytes suggests that EBV infection is responsible for p53 accumulation. HUM PATHOL 31:1397-1403.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Cell Nucleus / virology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Infant
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / metabolism*
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / pathology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / virology
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / virology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / virology
  • Male
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins*


  • BZLF1 protein, Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • EBV-associated membrane antigen, Epstein-Barr virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus encoded RNA 1
  • RNA, Viral
  • Trans-Activators
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Viral Proteins