Claire Shannon-Lowe’s research has focused on the mechanisms of Epstein Barr virus (EBV) entry into EBV-receptor deficient cells including epithelial cells and lymphocytes (T- and NK cells). EBV efficiently infects resting B lymphocytes, which express the virus receptor CD21, and maintains a silent latent infection for the lifetime of the host. In a minority of patients, EBV is associated with malignancies of B cells including Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, EBV is not strictly B-lymphotropic, and EBV infection of epithelial, T- and NK cell lineages are significantly associated with lymphoproliferations and malignancies of these cell types (including nasopharyngeal and gastric carcinoma, haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, NK leukaemia, extranasal NK/T cell lymphoma).
Epithelial cells, T cells and NK cells do not express the virus receptor and appeared to be refractory to infection in vitro. Dr Shannon-Lowe originally demonstrated efficient EBV entry into epithelial cells following co-culture of the epithelial cells with virus-loaded primary B cells. Based on this, her current research has two main focuses (1) EBV mediated manipulation of cell signalling processes to enable B cell-epithelial cell interaction and EBV-epithelial cell interaction (2) The mechanism of EBV entry into T- and NK cells and the role played by EBV in the development of T-/NK cell associated diseases and lymphomagenesis.