LMP-1, an Epstein-Barr viral (EBV) latency protein, is considered a viral oncogene because of its ability to transform rodent fibroblasts in vivo and render them tumorigenic in nude mice. In human B cells, EBV LMP-1 induces DNA synthesis and abrogates apoptosis. LMP-1 is expressed in EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), a subset of Hodgkin's disease (HD), and in EBV-associated lymphoproliferative disorders (EBV-LPDs). Recently, focused deletions near the 3′ end of the LMP-1 gene (del-LMP-1, amino acids 346–355), in a region functionally related to the half-life to the LMP-1 protein, have been reported frequently in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)- associated HD (100%) and EBV+ Malaysian and Danish peripheral T-cell lymphomas (100%, 61% respectively), but less frequently in cases of HD not associated with HIV (28%, 33%) and infectious mononucleosis (33%). To further investigate the potential relationship of del-LMP-1 to EBV- LPDs associated with immunosuppression or immunodeficiency, we studied 39 EBV-associated lymphoproliferations (10 benign, 29 malignant) from four distinct clinical settings: posttransplant (4 malignant, 1 reactive); HIV+ (18 malignant, 2 reactive); nonimmunodeficiency malignant lymphoma (ML) (7 cases); and sporadic EBV infection with lymphoid hyperplasia (7 cases). The presence of EBV within lymphoid cells was confirmed by EBV EBER1 RNA in situ hybridization or by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. EBV strain type and LMP-1 deletion status were determined by PCR. EBV strain types segregated into two distinct distributions: HIV+ (9 A; 11 B) and non-HIV (19 A, 0 B), consistent with previous reports. Overall, del-LMP-1 were found in 1 of 5 (20%) Burkitt lymphomas (BL); 17 of 24 (71%) aggressive non- Hodgkin's lymphoma (agg-NHL), and 2 of 10 (20%) reactive lymphoid proliferations. Of the agg-NHLs, del-LMP-1 were present in 4 of 4 PT-ML (100%); 10 of 15 HIV+ ML (67%); and 3 of 5 nonimmunodeficiency malignant lymphoma (ML, 60%). A total of 2 of 7 (28%) sporadic EBV- associated lymphoid hyperplasias contained a del-LMP-1. All del-LMP-1 were identical by DNA sequence analysis. No correlation was identified between the presence of del-LMP-1 and the EBV strain type observed. The high incidence of del-LMP-1 observed in agg-NHLs (71%), in contrast to the relatively low incidence observed in reactive lymphoid proliferations (28%), suggests that the deleted form may be preferentially selected in lymphomatous processes. All posttransplant agg-NHLs contained a del-LMP-1, and a similar frequency of del-LMP-1 was observed in both HIV-associated ML (66%) and nonimmunodeficiency ML (60%), suggesting that impairment of immune function alone is not a requirement for the expansion of malignant cells infected by EBV stains containing the deleted LMP-1 gene.

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