Virus research

Suppression of Epstein-Barr virus DNA load in latently infected nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells by CRISPR/Cas9.

PMID 28456574


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects more than 90% of the world's adult population. Once established, latent infection of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells with EBV is difficult to eradicate and might lead to the development of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in a small subset of individuals. In this study we explored the anti-EBV potential of CRISPR/Cas9 targeting of EBV genome in infected NPC cells. We designed gRNAs to target different regions of the EBV genome and transfected them into C666-1 cells. The levels of EBV DNA in transfected cells were decreased by about 50%. The suppressive effect on EBV DNA load lasted for weeks but could not be further enhanced by re-transfection of gRNA. Suppression of EBV by CRISPR/Cas9 did not affect survival of C666-1 cells but sensitized them to chemotherapeutic killing by cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil. Our work provides the proof-of-principle for suppressing EBV DNA load with CRISPR/Cas9 and a potential new strategy to sensitize EBV-infected NPC cells to chemotherapy.