B cells under influence: transformation of B cells by Epstein-Barr virus

Nat Rev Immunol. 2003 Oct;3(10):801-12. doi: 10.1038/nri1201.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an extremely successful virus, infecting more than 90% of the human population worldwide. After primary infection, the virus persists for the life of the host, usually as a harmless passenger residing in B cells. However, EBV can transform B cells, which can result in the development of malignant lymphomas. Intriguingly, the three main types of EBV-associated B-cell lymphoma - that is, Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and post-transplant lymphomas - seem to derive from germinal-centre B cells or atypical survivors of the germinal-centre reaction in most, if not all, cases, indicating that EBV-infected germinal-centre B cells are at particular risk for malignant transformation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Cell Transformation, Viral / immunology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / immunology
  • Germinal Center / immunology
  • Germinal Center / virology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / virology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / immunology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / virology
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / immunology


  • EBV-associated membrane antigen, Epstein-Barr virus
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Viral Matrix Proteins