The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an oncogenic, γ-herpesvirus associated with a broad spectrum of disease. While most immune-competent individuals can effectivley develop efficient adaptive immune responses to EBV, immunocompromised individuals are at serious risk for developing life threatening diseases such as Hodgkin's lymphoma and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). Given the significant morbidity associated with EBV infection in high-risk populations, there is a need to develop vaccine strategies that restore or enhance EBV-specific immune responses. Here, we identify the EBV immediate-early protein BZLF1 as a potential target antigen for vaccine development. Primary tumors from patients with PTLD and a chimeric human-murine model of EBV-driven lymphoproliferative disorder (EBV-LPD) express BZLF1 protein. Pulsing human dendritic cells (DC) with recombinant BZLF1 followed by incubation with autologous mononuclear cells led to expansion of BZLF1-specific CD8(+) T-cells in vitro and primed BZLF1-specific T-cell responses in vivo. In addition, vaccination of hu-PBL-SCID mice with BZLF1-transduced DCs induced specific cellular immunity and significantly prolonged survival from fatal EBV-LPD. These findings identify BZLF1 as a candidate target protein in the immunosurveillance of EBV and provide rationale for considering BZLF1 in vaccine strategies to enhance primary and recall immune responses and potentially prevent EBV-associated diseases.
- Received December 23, 2014.
- Revision received February 16, 2015.
- Accepted February 17, 2015.
- Copyright © 2015, American Association for Cancer Research.