The research team led by Professor Reinhard Zeidler, of LMU Munich University Hospitals and the Helmholtz Center Munich, has now deciphered the function of viral RNA molecules brought to human cell upon infection with Ebstein Barr virus. “We were able to show that they allow the virus to manipulate host cell function during the early stages of infection. And this process is clearly essential to ensure that the viral DNA swiftly established within the host cell.” The results thus reveal a new layer of complexity in the life cycle of herpes viruses.
Effective therapies for Epstein-Barr infections have so far been elusive. With funding provided by German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe), Zeidler and his colleagues are currently working to develop a vaccine specifically directed against EBV. Such a vaccine would be of special benefit to immunocompromized patients, who have a relatively higher risk of developing EBV-induced lymphomas than immunocompetent individuals.
The family of herpes viruses comprises several members which are responsible for conditions such as chickenpox, shingles and cold sores. Herpes virus infections literally last a lifetime. EBV is a ubiquitous herpes virus, which is the causative agent of infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever), but is also implicated in the development of lymphomas and other types of cancer. The genetic material of herpes viruses is made up of DNA that stably persists in infected cells.
Jochum S. et al (2012): RNAs in Epstein-Barr virions control early Stepps of infection. PNAS, April 27; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1115906109
Link to publication
Jochum S. et al (2012): The EBV immunoevasins vIL-10 and BNLF2a protect newly infected B cells from immune recognition and elimination. PLoS Pathogens, in press.
As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 1,900 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 31,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
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Prof. Dr. Reinhard Zeidler, Klinikum der Universität München und Helmholtz Zentrum München – – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Marchioninistr. 25, 81377 München, Tel.: +49 89-7099-239 – Fax +49 89-7099-225 – E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org