Both the activation and the transformation of human B cells by EBV were inhibited by either the Ca2+ channel blocking agent verapamil or the combination of theophylline and dibutyryl cAMP: the day 4 and day 20 peaks of [3H]TdR incorporation were abolished; the EBNA marker was not expressed by day 10; lymphoblastoid cell lines did not arise. Short term incubation of B cells with EBV or verapamil showed that the effect of verapamil was reversible and took place early in the interaction between EBV and B cells. The effect of EBV on the early metabolic events of B cell response was thus examined in the presence and in the absence of the drugs. Compared to anti-mu stimulation, supernatant of the transforming B95-8 strain as well as that of the non-transforming P3HR1 strain induced a drug sensitive increase of the free cytosolic Ca2+ concentration. This increase was associated with a protein kinase C translocation from the cytosol to a membrane bound compartment. Moreover, B95-8 supernatant induced phosphatidyl inositol metabolism by human B cells but at least four times less than that induced by anti-mu antibody. These metabolic events induced by EBV were significantly inhibited by anti-CD21 antibodies whereas anti-mu induced metabolic events were not. The infection of EBV negative Ramos cell line was prevented by verapamil or by theophylline + dibutyryl cAMP. Verapamil did not modify the density of EBV receptors but negatively interfered with the penetration of the virus into B cells. Thus B cell activation through the EBV receptor and virus penetration share a common metabolic pathway which is also used for transduction of the signal delivered through the membrane Ig.

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