Epstein-Barr Virus Oncoprotein LMP1 Mediates Epigenetic Changes in Host Gene Expression through PARP1

J Virol. 2016 Sep 12;90(19):8520-30. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01180-16. Print 2016 Oct 1.


The latent infection of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with 1% of human cancer incidence. Poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation (PARylation) is a posttranslational modification catalyzed by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) that mediate EBV replication during latency. In this study, we detail the mechanisms that drive cellular PARylation during latent EBV infection and the effects of PARylation on host gene expression and cellular function. EBV-infected B cells had higher PAR levels than EBV-negative B cells. Moreover, cellular PAR levels were up to 2-fold greater in type III than type I latently infected EBV B cells. We identified a positive association between expression of the EBV genome-encoded latency membrane protein 1 (LMP1) and PAR levels that was dependent upon PARP1. PARP1 regulates gene expression by numerous mechanisms, including modifying chromatin structure and altering the function of chromatin-modifying enzymes. Since LMP1 is essential in establishing EBV latency and promoting tumorigenesis, we explored the model that disruption in cellular PARylation, driven by LMP1 expression, subsequently promotes epigenetic alterations to elicit changes in host gene expression. PARP1 inhibition resulted in the accumulation of the repressive histone mark H3K27me3 at a subset of LMP1-regulated genes. Inhibition of PARP1, or abrogation of PARP1 expression, also suppressed the expression of LMP1-activated genes and LMP1-mediated cellular transformation, demonstrating an essential role for PARP1 activity in LMP1-induced gene expression and cellular transformation associated with LMP1. In summary, we identified a novel mechanism by which LMP1 drives expression of host tumor-promoting genes by blocking generation of the inhibitory histone modification H3K27me3 through PARP1 activation.

Importance: EBV is causally linked to several malignancies and is responsible for 1% of cancer incidence worldwide. The EBV-encoded protein LMP1 is essential for promoting viral tumorigenesis by aberrant activation of several well-known intracellular signaling pathways. We have identified and defined an additional novel molecular mechanism by which LMP1 regulates the expression of tumor-promoting host genes. We found that LMP1 activates the cellular protein PARP1, leading to a decrease in a repressive histone modification, accompanied by induction in expression of multiple cancer-related genes. PARP1 inhibition or depletion led to a decrease in LMP1-induced cellular transformation. Therefore, targeting PARP1 activity may be an effective treatment for EBV-associated malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • B-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Cell Line
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / physiology*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1 / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Latency*


  • EBV-associated membrane antigen, Epstein-Barr virus
  • Histones
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • PARP1 protein, human
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1