Cells of primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), a B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, are latently infected by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), with about 80 % of PEL also co-infected with Epstein–Barr virus (EBV). Both viruses can be reactivated into their lytic replication cycle in PEL by chemical inducers. However, simultaneous activation of both lytic cascades leads to mutual lytic cycle co-repression. The plasma cell-differentiation factor X-box binding protein 1 (XBP-1) transactivates the KSHV immediate–early promoter leading to the production of the replication and transcription activator protein (RTA), and reactivation of KSHV from latency. XBP-1 has been reported to act similarly on the EBV immediate–early promoter Zp, leading to the production of the lytic-cycle transactivator protein BZLF1. Here we show that activated B-cell terminal-differentiation transcription factor X-box binding protein 1 (XBP-1s) does not induce EBV BZLF1 and BRLF1 expression in PEL and BL cell lines, despite inducing lytic reactivation of KSHV in PEL. We show that XBP-1s transactivates the KSHV RTA promoter but does not transactivate the EBV BZLF1 promoter in non-B-cells by using a luciferase assay. Co-expression of activated protein kinase D, which can phosphorylate and inactivate class II histone deacetylases (HDACs), does not rescue XBP-1 activity on Zp nor does it induce BZLF1 and BRLF1 expression in PEL. Finally, chemical inducers of KSHV and EBV lytic replication in PEL, including HDAC inhibitors, do not lead to XBP-1 activation. We conclude that XBP-1 specifically reactivates the KSHV lytic cycle in dually infected PELs
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