Viral infection induces dynamic changes in transcriptional profiles. Virus-induced and antiviral responses are intertwined during the infection. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human gammaherpesvirus that provides a model of herpesvirus latency. To measure the transcriptome changes during the establishment of EBV latency, we infected EBV-negative Akata cells with EBV-EGFP and performed transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) at 0, 2, 4, 7, 10, and 14 days after infection. We found transient downregulation of mitotic division-related genes, reflecting reprogramming of cell growth by EBV, and a burst of viral lytic gene expression in the early phase of infection. Experimental and mathematical investigations demonstrate that infectious virions were not produced in the pre-latent phase, suggesting the presence of an abortive lytic infection. Fate mapping using recombinant EBV provided direct evidence that the abortive lytic infection in the pre-latent phase converges to latent infection during EBV infection of B-cells, shedding light on novel roles of viral lytic gene(s) in establishing latency. Furthermore, we find that the BZLF1 protein, which is a key regulator of reactivation, was dispensable for abortive lytic infection in the pre-latent phase, suggesting the divergent regulation of viral gene expressions from a productive lytic infection.
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