Genomic sequencing and comparative analysis of Epstein-Barr virus genome isolated from primary nasopharyngeal carcinoma biopsy

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36939. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036939. Epub 2012 May 10.


Whether certain Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) strains are associated with pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is still an unresolved question. In the present study, EBV genome contained in a primary NPC tumor biopsy was amplified by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and sequenced using next-generation (Illumina) and conventional dideoxy-DNA sequencing. The EBV genome, designated HKNPC1 (Genbank accession number JQ009376) is a type 1 EBV of approximately 171.5 kb. The virus appears to be a uniform strain in line with accepted monoclonal nature of EBV in NPC but is heterogeneous at 172 nucleotide positions. Phylogenetic analysis with the four published EBV strains, B95-8, AG876, GD1, and GD2, indicated HKNPC1 was more closely related to the Chinese NPC patient-derived strains, GD1 and GD2. HKNPC1 contains 1,589 single nucleotide variations (SNVs) and 132 insertions or deletions (indels) in comparison to the reference EBV sequence (accession number NC007605). When compared to AG876, a strain derived from Ghanaian Burkitt's lymphoma, we found 322 SNVs, of which 76 were non-synonymous SNVs and were shared amongst the Chinese GD1, GD2 and HKNPC1 isolates. We observed 88 non-synonymous SNVs shared only by HKNPC1 and GD2, the only other NPC tumor-derived strain reported thus far. Non-synonymous SNVs were mainly found in the latent, tegument and glycoprotein genes. The same point mutations were found in glycoprotein (BLLF1 and BALF4) genes of GD1, GD2 and HKNPC1 strains and might affect cell type specific binding. Variations in LMP1 and EBNA3B epitopes and mutations in Cp (11404 C>T) and Qp (50134 G>C) found in GD1, GD2 and HKNPC1 could potentially affect CD8(+) T cell recognition and latent gene expression pattern in NPC, respectively. In conclusion, we showed that whole genome sequencing of EBV in NPC may facilitate discovery of previously unknown variations of pathogenic significance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Biopsy
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms* / virology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*


  • Viral Proteins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/JQ009376