Interleukin-6 (IL-6) promotes growth and tumorigenicity of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-immortalized B cells, and is abnormally elevated in the serum of solid organ transplant recipients who develop EBV-positive posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD), but not in control transplant recipients. Endothelial cells derived from PTLD lesions were found to secrete spontaneously high levels of IL-6 in vitro for up to 4 mo. We examined possible mechanisms for sustained IL-6 production by endothelial cells. Here, we show that EBV can infect endothelial cells in vitro. After 3-4 wk incubation with lethally irradiated EBV-positive, but not EBVnegative cell lines, a proportion of human umbilical cord-derived endothelial cells (HUVECs) expressed in situ the EBV-encoded small 1LNAs (EBER). Southern blot analysis after polymerase chain reaction showed EBV DNA in HUVEC that had been incubated with lethally irradiated EBV-positive ceils, but not in the controls. Exposure of HUVECs to lethally irradiated EBV-positive but not EBV-negative cell lines induced IL-6 production that was sustained for up to 120 d of culture. These studies identify endothelial cells as targets for EBV infection and raise the possibility that this infection may be important in the life cycle and pathology of EBV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy