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Background: Both Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) are members of the human gamma herpesvirus family: each is associated with various human cancers. The majority of AIDS-associated primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) are co-infected with both KSHV and EBV. Dually-infected PELs selectively switch from latency to lytic replication of either KSHV or EBV in response to chemical stimuli. KSHV replication and transcription activator (K-RTA) is necessary and sufficient for the switch from KSHV latency to lytic replication, while EBV BZLF1 gene product (EBV-Z) is a critical initiator for induction of EBV lytic replication.
Methodology/Principal Findings: We show K-RTA and EBV-Z are co-localized and physically interact with each other in dually-infected PELs. K-RTA inhibits the EBV lytic replication by nullifying EBV-Z-mediated EBV lytic gene activation. EBV-Z inhibits KSHV lytic gene expression by blocking K-RTA-mediated transactivations. The physical interaction between K-RTA and EBV-Z are required for the mutual inhibition of the two molecules. The leucine heptapeptide repeat (LR) region in K-RTA and leucine zipper region in EBV-Z are involved in the physical interactions of the two molecules. Finally, initiation of KSHV lytic gene expression is correlated with the reduction of EBV lytic gene expression in the same PEL cells.
Conclusions/Significance: In this report, how the two viruses interact with each other in dually infected PELs is addressed. Our data may provide a possible mechanism for maintaining viral latency and for selective lytic replication in dually infected PELs, i.e., through mutual inhibition of two critical lytic replication initiators. Our data about putative interactions between EBV and KSHV would be applicable to the majority of AIDS-associated PELs and may be relevant to the pathogenesis of PELs.