Cellular responses to viral infection in humans: lessons from Epstein-Barr virus

Annu Rev Immunol. 2007;25:587-617. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.25.022106.141553.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) provides a useful model to study cellular immunity to a genetically stable, persistent human virus. Different sets of proteins expressed during EBV's lytic and cell transforming infections induce qualitatively different cellular immune responses. The factors governing immunodominance hierarchies and the biological effectiveness of these different responses are now being revealed. Analysis of infectious mononucleosis (IM), a clinical syndrome that can arise during primary EBV infection, has allowed the evolution of the responses to be tracked over time, giving an understanding of the immune response kinetics and of those determinants affecting selection into memory. Furthermore, following IM, expression of the receptor for the homeostatic cytokine IL-15 on NK and T cells is lost within these individuals. This experiment of nature provides a system to advance understanding of immunological homeostasis in humans, illustrating how data obtained from the study of EBV have wider significance to the immunological community.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Viral / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology*
  • Interleukin-15 / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Interleukin-15