Characteristics of EBV-infected cells in HIV-related lymphadenopathy: Implications for the pathogenesis of EBV-associated and EBV-unrelated lymphomas of HIV-seropositive individuals

R. Dolcetti, A. Gloghini, S. De Vita, E. Vaccher, V. De Re, U. Tirelli, A. Carbone, M. Boiocchi

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The present study was performed with the aim of better defining the possible role of Epstein-Barr-virus(EBV)-infected cells in the pathogenesis of HIV-related lymphadenopathy syndrome (LAS). In addition, since LAS has been considered as a pre-lymphomatous lesion, we also wished to elucidate the possible contribution of EBV-carrying cells present in LAS tissues to the development of HIV-associated malignant lymphomas. To this end, we have characterized EBV-infected cells in LAS lymph nodes in terms of EBV DNA prevalence, tissue distribution in relation to HIV-carrying cells, virus sub-type, expression of latent and replicative antigens, and presence of clonal EBV episomes. When compared with HIV-unrelated lymphadenopathies (4/10, 40%), LAS showed a higher prevalence of EBV DNA (14/20, 70%). Comparable values of EBV prevalence were detected in LAS with follicular hyperplasia (12/16, 75%) and with follicular involution (4/4, 100%). All EBV+ non-neoplastic lymph nodes from HIV-seronegative patients carried type-1 EBV, whereas LAS specimens showed almost equivalent distribution of the 2 EBV sub-types. Of the 14 EBV-carrying LAS, 4 (29%) were positive by Southern-blot analysis for the BamHI-W region of the virus genome but negative for the presence of monoclonal EBV episomes. In situ hybridization revealed a remarkably higher load of EBV-infected cells in LAS than in HIV-unrelated lymphadenopathies. In LAS lymph nodes, EBV-carrying cells were identified as isolated, cytologically normal elements, sometimes with immunoblastic morphology, usually scattered throughout the interfollicular areas. By contrast, the expression of HIV p24 was restricted to germinal center cells. All the EBV+ LAS samples were negative for the expression of EBV-encoded latent (LMP-1 and EBNA-2) and replicative proteins (BZLF-1, BHLF-1, EA-D, EA-R and VCA). In addition, amplification of the immunoglobulin heavy-chain genes using 2 different polymerase-chain-reaction protocols showed evidence of B-cell clonal expansion in 2/20 (10%) LAS, one EBV- case, and one sample with low numbers of EBV-infected cells. These results suggest that: (i) EBV-carrying cells are probably not involved in the development of LAS, either directly or indirectly; (ii) type-2-EBV-infected cells are present in LAS lymph nodes from the early phases of HIV infection; (iii) EBV-carrying LAS per se probably does not constitute a lesion at high risk for subsequent development of EBV+ lymphomas; (iv) it is unlikely that a high viral load or strong EBV-mediated antigenic stimulation plays a contributory role in the development of EBV-unrelated lymphomas of HIV-seropositive individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-659
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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