Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection of mature, resting B cells drives them to become lymphoblasts expressing high levels of cell surface molecules, such as CD48, characteristically expressed on normal activated B cells. Here, we report on the identification of an enhancer element in the CD48 gene which reproducibly confers strong transcriptional activity only in EBV-positive B-lymphoblastoid cell lines. The element is not activated upon infection of established EBV-negative B-cell lines, indicating that EBV fails to drive these cells to a fully lymphoblastoid phenotype. An NF-kappa B binding site is an essential component of the element but alone is not sufficient to account for the activity or the specificity of the element. We have detected a specific nuclear protein complex that binds to the element and show that NF-kappa B1 (p50) is a part of this complex. The EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1 is capable of transactivating the isolated CD48 NF-kappa B site but not the intact element, suggesting that the latent membrane protein 1-driven activation of NF-kappa B/Rel must interact with other regulatory pathways to control expression of cellular genes as EBV drives resting B cells into the cell cycle
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