Cancer virus interactions with host cells

Epstein Barr virus


Epstein–Barr virus is an almost ubiquitous human virus, which is transferred from person to person in saliva. Infection results in virus entry into both B-lymphocytes and epithelial cells. EBV promotes the proliferation of infected B-lymphocytes and readily generates immortalized cell lines when infection is undertaken in an in vitro culture system. The majority of these immortalized cells are recognized by the host immune system and destroyed but some enter the memory B-cell pool, down regulate EBV gene expression and persist in a latent state. Viral latency can be a long-term event and the association of EBV with an infected individual is considered to be for life. EBV is associated with the development of several types of cancer associated with lymphocytes or epithelial cells, principally Burkitt’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Primary infection with EBV can also result in infectious mononucleosis.


Prof  Sinclair's research group investigate the interactions between EBV and human cells. After infection of human cells the virus establishes viral latency and promotes cancer development. When the infected cells differentiate the virus becomes reactivated and it undergoes the viral lytic replication cycle - producing hundreds of copies of infectious virus. 


Our recent research focused on the ability of an EBV gene encoding a transcription factor Zta (BZLF1, ZEBRA, EB1, Z) to interact with DNA in a methylation-dependent manner and the chromatin structure of the EBV genome.


Our current challenge is to determine how EBV reprograms the expression of cell genes during EBV lytic replication cycle.


Recent and current members of the group 

Further details  of our research

Our public engagement activities 


The University of Sussex Gene Expression Research Group


Professor Alison J. Sinclair

Professor of Molecular Virology

Biochemistry and Biomedicine,

School of Life Sciences,

University of Sussex

Brighton, BN1 9QG


T +44 1273 678 194

go to Alison Sinclair's Biochemistry faculty profile