The Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is the cause of several malignancies, including diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We recently found that EBV genomes in EBV‐positive cancer specimens have various deletions (Okuno et al. Nat Microbiol. 2019). Here, we focus on the deletion of C promoter (Cp), which transcribes EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA) genes in type III latency. The Cp deletion found in a DLBCL patient (332 bp) was introduced into EBV‐BAC of the B95‐8 strain. Interestingly, the dCp virus transformed B cells more efficiently than WT and revertant strains. Deletion of Cp also promoted tumor formation and severe pathogenicity in a mouse xenograft model. RNA sequencing and qRT–PCR analyses revealed that Cp transcription was undetectable in the dCp cells. Instead, transcription from the W promoter (Wp), an alternative promoter for EBNA, was activated in the dCp mutant. We also found that the expression of latent membrane protein 2A (LMP2A) was somehow induced in the dCp mutant. Double knockout of Cp and LMP2A indicated that LMP2A is crucial for B cell transformation, but the increased transformation induced by Cp deletion cannot be explained by LMP2A alone. We also tested the effect of an anti‐apoptotic viral BCL2 homolog, BHRF1, because its expression was reportedly induced more efficiently by that of Wp. However, increased growth transformation via Cp deletion was not due to the BHRF1 gene. Taken together, the results indicated that deletion of a specific region in Cp increased in vitro transformation and the rate of progression of EBV‐positive lymphoproliferative disorders in vivo. Our data suggest that genomic alteration not only of the host but also the virus promotes EBVpositive tumor generation and expansion, although the molecular mechanism underlying this phenomenon is still unclear. However, LMP2A and BHRF1 are not involved.
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