The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 49: 285 - 292 (2005)

Vol 49, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: The Nogent Institute

The human T cell immune response to Epstein-Barr virus

Published: 1 May 2005

Elise Landais, Xavier Saulquin and Elisabeth Houssaint*

INSERM U463, Institut de Biologie, Nantes, France


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a gamma-herpes virus which establishes latent, life-long infection in more than 95% of the human adult population. Despite its growth transforming capacity, most carriers control EBV associated malignacies efficiently and remain free of EBV+ tumors. Though EBV is controlled by a potent immune response, this virus uses latency to persist in vivo. This review summarizes work which has been done to characterize T cell responses to EBV. The CD8 T cell responses are rather well characterized and have been shown by several groups to be highly focused towards early lytic antigens. Much less is known about CD4 T cell epitopes, due to the small size of the CD4 compartment. However, recent data indicate a control of lytic and latent cycles of EBV by specific CD4+ T cells. A clear understanding of the T cell response to EBV is important with a view to developing immunotherapies for the virus and its related malignancies.


Epstein-Barr virus, T cell response, EBV-associated tumor

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