Student Theses and Dissertations


Till Strowig

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

RU Laboratory

Munz Laboratory


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a lymphotropic 􀀁-herpes virus infecting over 90% of the human adult population. A striking feature that the virus shares with other 􀀁-herpes viruses is its oncogenic potential. This transforming property can be observed as B cell transformation in vitro and lymphomas as well as epithelial cancers in vivo, but most immunocompetent individuals control EBV infection successfully without the occurrence of disease. Cells of the innate immune system act in synergy to provide a first line of defense against pathogens. Here we describe that dendritic cells (DCs), matured with viral products or mimics thereof, activated natural killer (NK) cells more efficiently than other mature DC preparations. CD56brightCD16- NK cells, which are enriched in human secondary lymphoid tissues, responded primarily to this DC activation. In fact, 100-fold less tonsilar than peripheral blood NK cells were required to achieve the same protection against EBV-mediated B cell transformation in vitro, indicating that innate immune control of EBV by NK cells is most efficient at this primary site of EBV infection. The lack of an animal model of EBV infection prevents assignment of a protective value to immune subsets in vivo. We generated a small animal model that can be infected with EBV by reconstituting NOD-scid 􀀁c -/- mice with CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells. We demonstrated that primary T cell responses in these humanized mice control infection with EBV. These T cell responses were HLA restricted and partially specific for EBV derived peptides. In HLA-A2 transgenic animals T cell responses against lytic EBV antigens dominated over recognition of latent EBV antigens during early phases of infection similarly to human EBV carriers. This mouse model recapitulates features of symptomatic primary EBV infection, and generates T cell mediated immune control that resists oncogenic transformation. We were also able to demonstrate that humanized mice develop functional human NK cells, this will allow us now to study the contributions of NK cells to innate immune control of EBV in vivo in the future.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Rockefeller University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

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