Epstein-Barr virus infection of Langerhans cell precursors as a mechanism of oral epithelial entry, persistence, and reactivation.

Publication Date



J Virol. 2007 July; 81(13): 7249–7268.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human herpesvirus associated with many malignant and nonmalignant human diseases. Life-long latent EBV persistence occurs in blood-borne B lymphocytes, while EBV intermittently productively replicates in mucosal epithelia. Although several models have previously been proposed, the mechanism of EBV transition between these two reservoirs of infection has not been determined. In this study, we present the first evidence demonstrating that EBV latently infects a unique subset of blood-borne mononuclear cells that are direct precursors to Langerhans cells and that EBV both latently and productively infects oral epithelium-resident cells that are likely Langerhans cells. These data form the basis of a proposed new model of EBV transition from blood to oral epithelium in which EBV-infected Langerhans cell precursors serve to transport EBV to the oral epithelium as they migrate and differentiate into oral Langerhans cells. This new model contributes fresh insight into the natural history of EBV infection and the pathogenesis of EBV-associated epithelial disease.


Adult, B-Lymphocytes, Cell Differentiation, Cell Movement, Cells, Cultured, Epithelial Cells, Epstein-Barr Virus Infections, Female, Herpesvirus 4, Human, Humans, Langerhans Cells, Male, Models, Biological, Mouth Mucosa, Stem Cells, Virus Activation, Virus Latency, Virus Replication


PMCID: PMC1933305