EPSTEIN–BARR virus (EBV), a herpes virus, infects human B lymphocytes in vitro and efficiently immortalizes them1. About 10 of the approximately 100 genes of EBV are expressed in recently immortalized B cells and although there is circumstantial evidence that at least three of these may contribute to the process of immortalization, there is no direct evidence that any particular gene is required2. We have developed a genetic analysis of EBV that uses a transformation-defective strain of the virus as a helper virus in conjunction with DNA that contains all of the viral cis-acting elements required for replication, cleavage and packaging during the lytic phase of the viral life cycle. This DNA can include viral genes required for immortalization that complement the transformation-defective virus strain. The DNA can be amplified and packaged by the products of the helper virus and the packaged DNA is infectious. We have analysed two viral genes expressed in immortalized cells and find that the gene encoding EBV nuclear antigen-2 is required for immortalization, whereas the gene for the EBV nuclear antigen leader protein is not.
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Hammerschmidt, W., Sugden, B. Genetic analysis of immortalizing functions of Epstein–Barr virus in human B lymphocytes. Nature 340, 393–397 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/340393a0
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