CRISPR/Cas9 Screens Reveal Epstein-Barr Virus-Transformed B Cell Host Dependency Factors.

Ma Y, Walsh MJ, Bernhardt K, Ashbaugh CW, Trudeau SJ, Ashbaugh IY, Jiang S, Jiang C, Zhao B, Root DE, Doench JG, Gewurz BE.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes endemic Burkitt lymphoma (BL) and immunosuppression-related lymphomas. These B cell malignancies arise by distinct transformation pathways and have divergent viral and host expression programs. To identify host dependency factors resulting from these EBV+, B cell-transformed cell states, we performed parallel genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 loss-of-function screens in BL and lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). These highlighted 57 BL and 87 LCL genes uniquely important for their growth and survival. LCL hits were enriched for EBV-induced genes, including viral super-enhancer targets. Our systematic approach uncovered key mechanisms by which EBV oncoproteins activate the PI3K/AKT pathway and evade tumor suppressor responses. LMP1-induced cFLIP was found to be critical for LCL defense against TNFα-mediated programmed cell death, whereas EBV-induced BATF/IRF4 were critical for BIM suppression and MYC induction in LCLs. Finally, EBV super-enhancer-targeted IRF2 protected LCLs against Blimp1-mediated tumor suppression. Our results identify viral transformation-driven synthetic lethal targets for therapeutic intervention.

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