Oncogenic viruses promote cell proliferation through the dramatic reorganization of host transcriptomes. In addition to regulating mRNA abundance, changes in mRNA isoform usage can have a profound impact on the protein output of the transcriptome. Using Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) transformation of primary B cells, we have studied the ability of an oncogenic virus to alter the mRNA isoform profile of its host. Using the algorithm called SplicerEX with two complementary Affymetrix microarray platforms, we uncovered 433 mRNA isoform changes regulated by EBV during B-cell transformation. These changes were largely orthogonal with the 2,163 mRNA abundance changes observed during transformation, such that less than one-third of mRNAs changing at the level of isoform also changed in overall abundance. While we observed no preference for a mechanistic class of mRNA isoform change, we detected a significant shortening of 3'untranslated regions and exclusion of cassette exons in EBVtransformed cells relative to uninfected B cells. Gene ontology analysis of the mRNA isoform changes revealed significant enrichment in nucleic acid binding proteins. We validated several of these isoform changes and were intrigued by those in two mRNAs encoding the proteins XBP1 and TCF4, which have both been shown to bind and activate the promoter of the major EBV lytic trans-activator BZLF1. Our studies indicate that EBV latent infection promotes the usage of mRNA isoforms of XBP1 and TCF4 that restrict BZLF1 activation. Therefore, characterization of global changes in mRNA isoform usage during EBV infection identifies a new mechanism for the maintenance of latent infection.
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