Reason Epstein-Barr Virus Causes Cancer Found

For a decade and a half, scientists have known that the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) not only causes mononucleosis (mono or "the kissing disease") but also it was found in some cancers including Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Now scientists publishing this month have found out why. The retinoblastoma protein (Rb) is a major regulator of several genes in charge of cell proliferation and cell-cycle regulation. In the nucleus, Rb normally binds to E2F, turning off genes involved with cell proliferation. Using human cell cultures infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, the investigators found that EBNA3C recruits a group of molecules called the SCF complex, which attaches ubiquitin to Rb. This inadvertently tags Rb for elimination by the proteosome machinery, the cell’s recycling plant. With Rb out of the way, the cell now reproduces uncontrollably. "It's as simple as that, but it's a major mystery solved that many researchers have been working on for at least 15 years," said Erle Robertson, investigator.

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