The M2 gene product of murine gammaherpesvirus 68 is required for efficient colonization of splenic follicles but is not necessary for expansion of latently infected germinal centre B cells.
Simas JP., Marques S., Bridgeman A., Efstathiou S., Adler H.
Infection of mice with murine gammaherpesvirus 68 is characterized by a marked transient expansion of latently infected splenic germinal centre (GC) B cells, which is followed by lower levels of persistent infection in GC and memory B cells. Virus transcription within GC B cells is restricted to a number of latency-associated open reading frames, including M2. This gene encodes a structurally unique protein of unknown function, which has been shown to be essential for the transient peak of virus latency during the establishment of latent infection in the spleen. This study shows that upon infection of mice with M2-defective viruses, at 14 days post-infection during the establishment of latency in the spleen, there was a reduction in the number of latently infected follicles when compared with wild-type virus. However, the mean number of latently infected cells within each follicle was equivalent between wild-type and M2-defective viruses. Late in infection, disruption of M2 resulted in sustained and abnormally high levels of virus persistence in splenic GC B cells but not memory B cells. These data indicate that during the establishment of latency in the spleen, the M2 gene product is required for efficient colonization of splenic follicles but is dispensable for the expansion of latently infected GC B cells and that M2 might be a critical modulator of B-cell function.