Epstein-Barr virus protein EBNA-LP engages YY1 through leucine-rich motifs to promote naïve B cell transformation

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 8:2024.01.07.574580. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.07.574580.


Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is associated with numerous cancers including B cell lymphomas. In vitro, EBV transforms primary B cells into immortalized Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines (LCLs) which serves as a model to study the role of viral proteins in EBV malignancies. EBV induced cellular transformation is driven by viral proteins including EBV-Nuclear Antigens (EBNAs). EBNA-LP is important for the transformation of naïve but not memory B cells. While EBNA-LP was thought to promote gene activation by EBNA2, EBNA-LP Knock Out (LPKO) virus-infected cells express EBNA2-activated genes efficiently. Therefore, a gap in knowledge exists as to what roles EBNA-LP plays in naïve B cell transformation. We developed a trans-complementation assay wherein transfection with wild-type EBNA-LP rescues the transformation of peripheral blood- and cord blood-derived naïve B cells by LPKO virus. Despite EBNA-LP phosphorylation sites being important in EBNA2 co-activation; neither phospho-mutant nor phospho-mimetic EBNA-LP was defective in rescuing naïve B cell outgrowth. However, we identified conserved leucine-rich motifs in EBNA-LP that were required for transformation of adult naïve and cord blood B cells. Because cellular PPAR-γ coactivator (PGC) proteins use leucine-rich motifs to engage transcription factors including YY1, a key regulator of DNA looping and metabolism, we examined the role of EBNA-LP in engaging cellular transcription factors. We found a significant overlap between EBNA-LP and YY1 in ChIP-Seq data and confirmed their biochemical association in LCLs by endogenous co-immunoprecipitation. Moreover, we found that the EBNA-LP leucine-rich motifs were required for YY1 interaction in LCLs. Finally, we used Cas9 to knockout YY1 in primary total B cells and naïve B cells prior to EBV infection and found YY1 to be essential for EBV-mediated transformation. We propose that EBNA-LP engages YY1 through conserved leucine-rich motifs to promote EBV transformation of naïve B cells.

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