The high level of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) replication found in hairy leukoplakia (HL) provides a unique opportunity to study EBV expression in the oral epithelium. Screening of a cDNA library from an HL biopsy revealed expression of two genes not previously described in vivo: BMRF-2 and BDLF-3. Sequence analysis of the cDNAs demonstrated several nucleotide changes from the B95-8 sequence. In all six different HL strains studied, only one amino acid change was found in BMRF-2 relative to B95-8 and two amino acid changes were found in the BDLF-3 ORF. mRNA expression of both genes was localized to the lower prickle cell layer of the tongue epithelium. BMRF-2 protein expression was primarily detected in the cell nuclei of the upper prickle cell layer; immunoelectron microscopy revealed that BMRF-2 was associated with the nuclear chromatin. BDLF-3 protein expression was observed in the perinuclear space and cytoplasm of the prickle cells. BDLF-3 has recently been identified as a virion-associated protein, but the functions of BMRF-2 and BDLF-3 have not been elucidated.


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