Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is closely associated with many human diseases, including a variety of deadly human malignant tumours. However, due to the lack of ideal animal models,the biological characteristics of EBV, particularly its function in tumourigenesis, have not been determined. Chinese tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri chinensis), which are similar to primates, have been used to establish a variety of animal models and have recently received much attention. Here, we established tree shrews as a model for EBV infection by intravenous injection.
Methods: Ten tree shrews were inoculated with EBV by intravenous injection,and blood was collected at regular intervals thereafter from the femoral artery or vein to detect EBV markers.
Results: Eight of 10 tree shrews showed evidence of EBV infection. In the 8 EBV-infected tree shrews, EBV copy number increased intermittently or transiently, EBV-related gene expression was detected, and anti-EBV antibodies increased to varying degrees. Macroscopic hepatomegaly was observed in 1 tree shrew, splenomegaly was observed in 4 tree shrews, and enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes were observed in 3 tree shrews. Haematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining showed splenic corpuscle hyperplasia in the spleens of 4 tree shrews and inflammatory cell infiltration of the liver of 1 tree shrew and of the mesenteric lymph nodes of 3 tree shrews. EBER in situ hybridization(ISH) and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining showed that EBER-, LMP1- and EBNA2- positive cells were present in the spleens and mesenteric lymph nodes of some tree shrews. Western blotting (WB) revealed EBNA1-positive cells in the spleens of 4 tree shrews. EBV markers were not detected by HE, EBER-ISH or IHC in the lung or nasopharynx.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that EBV can infect tree shrews via intravenous injection. The presented model offers some advantages for exploring the pathophysiology of EBV infection in humans.
Keywords: Animal model; Epstein–Barr virus; Infection; Tree shrews.