B lymphocytes and Epstein-Barr virus: The lesson of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders

Riccardo Dolcetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human γ-herpes virus that establishes a life-long asymptomatic infection in immunocompetent hosts by colonizing memory B lymphocytes and hijacking cellular signaling pathways that regulate antigen-dependent B-cell activation and differentiation. In patients with solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, the defect in EBV-specific immune responses may allow the outgrowth of EBV-carrying B lymphocytes that may give rise to a spectrum of different clinico-pathologic entities encompassed by the term post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD). EBV-driven immortalization of B-cells is mediated by the cooperative activity of viral proteins that derange critical cellular pathways controlling growth and/or survival of B lymphocytes. Full transformation of infected B-cells is achieved by the contribution of poorly defined additional co-factors, including microenvironmental stimuli, genetic and epigenetic alterations. The quantification of circulating EBV DNA and EBV-specific T cells are valuable tools in the clinical monitoring of EBV-associated PTLD. The recent advances in elucidation of the mechanisms underlying EBV-induced growth transformation will be instrumental in guiding the design of novel approaches for the treatment of these often life-threatening lymphoproliferative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • B lymphocytes
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disorders
  • Viral load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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