The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen protein 3A (EBNA-3A), a protein of 944 amino acids, is one of five EBNAs (EBNA-1, -2, -LP, -3A and -3C) essential for conversion of primary B lymphocytes to lymphoblastoid cell lines. To characterize the variations of the EBNA-3A gene and explore the association between EBNA-3A gene variations and EBV-associated diseases, we sequenced the key regions of EBNA-3A in the isolates of 30 EBV-associated gastric carcinomas (EBVaGCs), 44 nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPCs) and 48 samples from healthy donors in northern China. We found that EBNA-3A shares a common evolutionary origin with isolates from southern China and Japan but has the character of a geographical variant. Based on a phylogenetic tree, all of the samples can be subdivided into three patterns, named 3A-8, 3A-5 and B95-8-like. The distribution of EBNA-3A subtypes among EBVaGC, NPC and healthy donors is not significantly different. The subtype 3A-8 is predominant not only in northern China but also in southern China; it is a geographically associated polymorphism in China.
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