Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is caused by infection with Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) and endemic in certain geographic regions. EBV lytic gene, BALF2, closely associates with viral reactivation and BALF2 gene variation, the H-H-H strain, causes NPC in endemic region, southern China. Here, we investigate whether such EBV variations also affect NPC in a non-endemic region, Japan. Viral genome sequencing with 47 EBV isolates of Japanese NPC were performed and compared with those of other EBV-associated diseases from Japan or NPC in Southern China. EBV genomes of Japanese NPC are different from those of other diseases in Japan or endemic NPC; Japanese NPC was not affected by the endemic strain (the BALF2 H-H-H) but frequently carried the type 2 EBV or the strain with intermediate risk of endemic NPC (the BALF2 H-H-L). Seven single nucleotide variations were specifically associated with Japanese NPC, of which six were present in both type 1 and 2 EBV genomes, suggesting the contribution of the type 2 EBV-derived haplotype. This observation was supported by a higher viral titer and stronger viral reactivation in NPC with either type 2 or H-H-L strains. Our results highlight the importance of viral strains and viral reactivation in the pathogenesis of non-endemic NPC.
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