Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), an oncogenic human virus, is associated with several lymphoproliferative disorders, including Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), and posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). In vitro, EBV transforms primary B cells into lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). Recently, several studies have shown that receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) play important roles in EBV-associated neoplasia. However, details of the involvement of RTKs in EBV-regulated B-cell neoplasia and malignancies remain largely unclear. Here, we found that erythropoietinproducing hepatocellular receptor A4 (EphA4), which belongs to the largest RTK Eph family, was downregulated in primary B cells post-EBV infection at the transcriptional and translational levels. Overexpression and knockdown experiments confirmed that EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) was responsible for this EphA4 suppression. Mechanistically, LMP1 triggered the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway and promoted Sp1 to suppress EphA4 promoter activity. Functionally, overexpression of EphA4 prevented LCLs from proliferation. Pathologically, the expression of EphA4 was detected in EBV- tonsils but not in EBV+ PTLD. In addition, an inverse correlation of EphA4 expression and EBV presence was verified by immunochemical staining of EBV+ and EBV- DLBCL, suggesting EBV infection was associated with reduced EphA4 expression. Analysis of a public data set showed that lower EphA4 expression was correlated with a poor survival rate of DLBCL patients. Our findings provide a novel mechanism by which EphA4 can be regulated by an oncogenic LMP1 protein and explore its possible function in B cells. The results provide new insights into the role of EphA4 in EBV+ PTLD and DLBCL.
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