Highly efficient CRISPR/Cas9-mediated cloning and functional characterization of gastric cancer-derived Epstein-Barr virus strains.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is etiologically linked to approximately 10% of gastric cancers, in which viral genomes are maintained as multicopy episomes. EBV-positive gastric cancer cells are incompetent for progeny virus production, making viral DNA cloning extremely difficult. Here we describe a highly efficient strategy for obtaining bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones of EBV episomes by utilizing a CRISPR/Cas9-mediated strand break of the viral genome and subsequent homology-directed repair. EBV strains maintained in two gastric cancer cell lines (SNU719 and YCCEL1) were cloned, and their complete viral genome sequences were determined. Infectious viruses of gastric cancer cell-derived EBVs were reconstituted, and the viruses established stable latent infections in immortalized keratinocytes. While Ras oncoprotein overexpression caused massive vacuolar degeneration and cell death in control keratinocytes, EBV-infected keratinocytes survived in the presence of Ras expression. These results implicate EBV infection in predisposing epithelial cells to malignant transformation by inducing resistance to oncogene-induced cell death.Recent progress in DNA-sequencing technology has accelerated EBV whole-genome sequencing, and the repertoire of sequenced EBV genomes is increasing progressively. Accordingly, the presence of EBV variant strains that may be relevant to EBV-associated diseases has begun to attract interest. Clearly, the determination of additional disease-associated viral genome sequences will facilitate the identification of any disease-specific EBV variants. We found that CRISPR/Cas9-mediated cleavage of EBV episomal DNA enabled the cloning of disease-associated viral strains with unprecedented efficiency. As a proof of concept, two gastric cancer cell-derived EBV strains were cloned, and the infection of epithelial cells with reconstituted viruses provided important clues about the mechanism of EBV-mediated epithelial carcinogenesis. This experimental system should contribute to establishing the relationship between viral genome variation and EBV-associated diseases. Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.