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Despite 25 years of research, the basic virology of Kaposi Sarcoma Herpesviruses (KSHV) in B lymphocytes remains poorly understood. This study seeks to fill critical gaps in our understanding by characterizing the B lymphocyte lineage-specific tropism of KSHV. Here, we use lymphocytes derived from 40 human tonsil specimens to determine the B lymphocyte lineages targeted by KSHV early during de novo infection in our ex vivo model system. We characterize the immunological diversity of our tonsil specimens and determine that overall susceptibility of tonsil lymphocytes to KSHV infection varies substantially between donors. We demonstrate that a variety of B lymphocyte subtypes are susceptible to KSHV infection and identify CD138+ plasma cells as a highly targeted cell type for de novo KSHV infection. We determine that infection of tonsil B cell lineages is primarily latent with few lineages contributing to lytic replication. We explore the use of CD138 and heparin sulfate proteoglycans as attachment factors for the infection of B lymphocytes and conclude that they do not play a substantial role. Finally, we determine that the host T cell microenvironment influences the course of de novo infection in B lymphocytes. These results improve our understanding of KSHV transmission and the biology of early KSHV infection in a naïve human host, and lay a foundation for further characterization of KSHV molecular virology in B lymphocyte lineages.


This article was originally published in PLoS Pathogens, volume 16, issue 10, in 2020.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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