Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human gammaherpesvirus that causes infectious mononucleosis and several malignancies, such as endemic Burkitt lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Herpesviruses carry genes that can modify cell functions, including transcription and ubiquitination, thereby facilitating viral growth and survival in infected cells. Using a reporter screening system, we revealed the involvement of several EBV gene products in such processes. Of these, BGLF2 activated the AP-1 signaling pathway through phosphorylation of p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Knockout of the BGLF2 gene did not affect viral gene expression and viral genome DNA replication, but resulted in marked reduction of progeny titer. We also found that the BGLF2 disruption resulted in significant loss of infectivity upon de novo infection. Interestingly, expression of a binding partner, BKRF4, repressed the activation of AP-1 by BGLF2. These results shed light on the physiological role of the tegument protein BGLF2. IMPORTANCE Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), an oncogenic gammaherpesvirus, carries ~80 genes. While several genes have been investigated extensively, most lytic genes remain largely unexplored. Therefore, we cloned 71 EBV lytic genes into an expression vector and used reporter assays to screen for factors that activate signal transduction pathways, viral and cellular promoters. BGLF2 activated the AP-1 signaling pathway, likely by interacting with p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and increased infectivity of the virus. We also revealed that BKRF4 can negatively regulate AP-1 activity. Therefore, it is suggested that EBV exploits and modifies the AP-1 signaling pathway for its replication and survival.
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