Constitutive autophagy contributes to resistance to TP53-mediated apoptosis in Epstein-Barr virus-positive latency III B-cell lymphoproliferations.

PMID 26565591


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with various lymphoproliferative disorders and lymphomas. We have previously demonstrated that treating wild-type TP53-expressing B cell lines with the TP53 pathway activator nutlin-3 induced apoptosis in EBV-negative and EBV-positive latency I cells whereas EBV-positive latency III cells remained much more apoptosis-resistant. Here, we report a constitutively high level of autophagy in these resistant cells which express high levels of the proautophagic protein BECN1/Beclin 1 based, at least in part, on the activation of the NFKB signaling pathway by the viral protein LMP1. Following treatment with nutlin-3, several autophagy-stimulating genes were upregulated both in EBV-negative and EBV-positive latency III cells. However the process of autophagy was only triggered in the latter and was associated with an upregulation of SESN1/sestrin 1 and inhibition of MTOR more rapid than in EBV-negative cells. A treatment with chloroquine, an inhibitor of autophagy, potentiated the apoptotic effect of nutlin-3, particularly in those EBV-positive cells which were resistant to apoptosis induced by nutlin-3 alone, thereby showing that autophagy participates in this resistant phenotype. Finally, using immunohistochemical staining, clinical samples from various B cell lymphoproliferations with the EBV-positive latency II or III phenotype were found to harbor a constitutively active autophagy.