The HI fragment containing the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) LMP1 gene was cloned from a genomic library of the nude mouse-propagated Chinese nasopharyngeal carcinoma CAO. The sequence of the LMP1 gene and its promoter and enhancer was determined. The nucleotide sequence of the CAO isolate differed from those of the B95-8 and Raji isolates in the promoter/enhancer region; the amino acid sequence of the protein also differed. Structural differences in the protein were located mainly in the 20 N-terminal residues and the array of repeated amino acids in the C-terminal part of the protein, in which the CAO isolate displays a cluster of seven perfect repeats of 11 amino acids (aa). Three of these repeats have no counterpart in the other virus strains. This, together with two deletions of five and 10 aa in the C-terminal part, yields a protein of 404 aa, compared to 386 aa for B95-8 and Raji. The larger LMP1 protein was detected on immunoblots of tissue samples from the CAO nude mouse tumour, and was also present in EBV-negative B cell lines and immortalized keratinocytes transfected with the cloned gene. A I restriction site in exon 1 of the B95-8 BNLF-1 gene was absent from the CAO EBV isolate, as well as from 36 of 37 Chinese NPC biopsies tested. In contrast, 17 of 19 NPC biopsies of African origin retained this I site.


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