Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been recently found to generate novel circular RNAs (circRNAs) through backsplicing. However, comprehensive catalogs of EBV circRNAs in other cell lines and their functional characterization are still lacking. In this study, we have identified a list of putative EBV circRNAs in GM12878, an EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell line, with a significant majority encoded from the EBV latent genes. A novel EBV circRNA derived from the exon 5 of LMP-2 gene which exhibited highest prevalence, was further validated using RNase R assay and Sanger sequencing. This circRNA, which we term circLMP-2_e5, can be universally detected in a panel of EBV-positive cell lines modelling different latency programs. It ranges from lower expression in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells to higher expression in B cells, and is localized to both the cytoplasm and the nucleus. We provide evidence that circLMP-2_e5 is expressed concomitantly with its cognate linear LMP-2 RNA upon EBV lytic reactivation, and may be produced as a result of exon skipping, with its circularization possibly occurring without the involvement of cis elements in the short flanking introns. Furthermore, we show that circLMP-2_e5 is not involved in regulating cell proliferation, host innate immune response, its linear parental transcripts, or EBV lytic reactivation. Taken together, our study expands the current repertoire of putative EBV circRNAs, broadens our understanding of the biology of EBV circRNAs, and lays the foundation for further investigation of their function in the EBV life cycle and disease development.
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