Nucleic acid hybridization between cellular DNA and complementary RNA to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was used to detect the presence of EBV DNA. Nineteen of 20 established human lymphoid cell lines studied have contained EBV genomes in various amounts. The lines containing EBV DNA included 5 originating from tissues of patients with various diseases as well as from healthy donors. The antibody titers to herpes group viruses in the donors and the presence of detectable EBV virion or associated antigens in the cell lines showed little if any correlation with the number of EBV genome equivalents in the established lymphoblastoid cell lines. However, large numbers of EBV genome equivalents were associated with the finding of virions by electron microscopy and of viral antigens by immunofluorescence. A unique cell line, RPMI 8226, identified as a myeloma cell line, did not contain detectable EBV genome. All 20 cell lines were identified as being of thymus-independent lymphocyte (B-cell) origin on the basis of either immunoglobulin synthesis, presence of membrane receptor sites for immunoglobulin G and complement, or the presence of both properties.
The study showed the consistent presence of the EBV genome in all established lymphoblastoid cell lines with B-cell surface markers.
This study was supported by USPHS Grants CA-14413 and A1-08899 and a contract from the Virus-Cancer Program (72-3228) from the National Cancer Institute.